Release #: 23.30
September 14, 2023

ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Awards Underscores Importance of Two Pilots on the Flight Deck

CHICAGO—Today at the Association’s 67th Air Safety Forum, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) honored the pilots of two flights who overcame significant operational challenges during inflight emergencies. ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award recognizes pilots who put their piloting skills, training, and experience into practice during extraordinary and unexpected events to safely transport their passengers and cargo.

By mere coincidence and further demonstrating the unpredictability of flight operations, both of these inflight emergencies took place on the same day: A bird strike pierced the flight deck of Delta Flight 2295, and on Envoy Flight 3556, the captain in training became incapacitated by a medical emergency.

Capt. Stuart Smith and Capt. Ian Augustine were honored with the Superior Airmanship Award for their teamwork, communication, and skill for managing, stabilizing, and landing their aircraft, Delta Flight 2295, after a bird punctured the flight deck, leaving a gaping hole in the aircraft. They expertly piloted threat and error management despite extreme noise and distractions following rapid depressurization at 13,000 feet while enroute from Atlanta to Omaha. The flight deck door was blown open, which left a hole in a panel above the pilots. Smith quickly assessed the situation, assigned duties, and declared an emergency, while Augustine safely landed the aircraft in Omaha.

Capt. Brandon Hendrickson received the award for his quick actions and leadership to calmly assess an urgent situation and land the aircraft when his captain in training became incapacitated on Envoy Flight 3556. As the aircraft reached 1,000 feet departing Chicago O’Hare, the copilot suffered a medical event and became unresponsive. Hendrickson assumed positive control of the aircraft, declared an emergency, and requested an immediate return to the airport. He is receiving the Superior Airmanship Award for his professionalism and decisive action. After landing, doctors traveling as passengers assisted flight attendants in removing the incapacitated pilot from the flight deck. Although medical personnel met the aircraft at the gate, they were unable to revive the other pilot, who unfortunately passed away.

“Captains Stuart, Augustine, and Hendrickson set an example for pilots around the world and uphold our union’s tradition of unwavering dedication to excellence. The quick actions and piloting ability under some of the most unforgiving conditions an airline pilot will ever experience exhibited by each of these pilots is a testament to their talent, determination, and courage as aviators,” said ALPA president Capt. Jason Ambrosi. “It is important to underscore that the positive outcome of both of these flights depended on the presence of two highly trained, highly qualified, and well-rested pilots on the flight deck.”

“With over 300 knots of winds filling the flight deck, Captains Stuart and Augustine depended on the ability to communicate physically, watch each other, and split responsibilities to recover and land the plane safely. Capt. Hendrickson was similarly able to quickly react and safely land because he was on the flight deck to immediately recognize the warning signs as the pilot next to him became incapacitated and take control of the aircraft.”

Read more information about both incidents.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents more than 75,000 pilots at 43 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit or follow us on Twitter @ALPAPilots.