Two first officers took control of the plane, a Boeing 777, after the captain, who was 61 years old, “died in flight, apparently of natural causes,” according to Julie King, a spokeswoman for Continental. The captain had 21 years of service with Continental and was based in Newark, she said, adding that his family had been notified.
The flight, Flight 61, took off at 9:54 a.m. in Brussels (3:54 a.m. Eastern time), according to Continental’s Web site. It touched down at 11:47 a.m., earlier than its scheduled noon landing, at Gate C123 at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Passengers said they were not told about the emergency and had no idea what happened until the plane landed.
About halfway through the flight, a call came over the announcement system asking if any doctors were on board, passengers said. Several passengers said they were, the passengers said.
A medical doctor on board the flight pronounced the pilot dead, according to Les Dorr Jr., an F.A.A. spokesman. The pilot was removed from the cockpit to the crew rest area, he said.