Delta Flight 131 to Atlanta was over the Washington area when a woman about 32 to 36 weeks — or nine months — pregnant went into labor Wednesday afternoon, prompting an emergency stop in Charlotte, N.C., about nine hours into the flight.
Though the baby boy wasn't breathing when he was born, he was "like a normal newborn" by Friday, one of the doctors who helped deliver him said.
The baby was born in front of the first seats after first class, one of the roomiest aisles in a plane. Using a stethoscope that was part of medical equipment onboard, the doctors realized the baby had a very slow or arrested heartbeat as the woman was in labor.
"Delivering a baby in an aisle of a plane isn't an easy thing to do," one of the doctors, Dr. Robert Vincent, a pediatric cardiologist with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said Friday. "I didn't think the child would survive."
Vincent worked with Dr. Dieter K. Gunkel, an adult cardiologist from Savannah, Ga., to deliver the baby. When he was born, he was blue and wasn't breathing or moving. Vincent started chest compressions and Gunkel did mouth-to-mouth breathing until the boy "pinked up," Vincent said.
"We were flying by the seat of our pants," Vincent said, adding that he didn't even realize baby was a boy until his birth was announced to applauding passengers.
Vincent said the baby weighed about seven pounds. His name wasn't available.
The mother, whose identity was not released, was taken to a hospital with the baby. About an hour after the emergency landing, the flight continued to Atlanta, officials said.
"It was a heroic effort by our flight attendant crew and our customers on board who were fortunately doctors," said Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton.
Doctors usually discourage pregnant women to fly at the ninth month, but Talton said Delta has no policy to deny boarding. Other airlines, including Lufthansa and Northwest Airlines, require a medical certificate for women who are at the 36th week of pregnancy.