A recent incident unfolded as follows:
- An aircraft overflew the planned destination and did not respond to radio calls on any frequency.
- ATC decided the pilot might be incapacitated and asked another pilot whether he could get close to that aircraft to take a look.
- The other pilot did that and observed no reaction to signals such as rocking the wings or extending the landing gear, however the incapacitated pilot was changing the course slightly to maintain separation.
- Eventually the pilot resumed radio contact (speaking in a slurred voice) and upon insistence from ATC landed at the closest airport without further incident. All this time ATC was asking the other pilot whether they would still stay in the area, which they did until the landing.
There’s a VASAviation video with the entire radio conversation.
How can the other aircraft help beyond what they already did? Why did ATC want them around after getting in touch with the incapacitated pilot? Despite the aircraft belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, it’s not like they could provide medical help. What else could have happened after radio contact was restored that would have necessitated some kind of action from the other pilot?