Widow of Pilot Who Died During Flight: 'He Said He Felt Better Than He Had Felt for a While'

The widow of a pilot who died in the cockpit of an American Airlines plane earlier this week said that he had recently been feeling better than ever.

“He told me just Saturday that he felt better than he felt for a while,” Betty Jean Johnston told INSIDE EDITION.

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Her husband, 57-year-old Michael Johnston, suffered a fatal heart attack as he flew from Phoenix to Boston on Monday. His co-pilot kept his cool and made an emergency landing in Syracuse, New York.

When ambulance crews reached the jet, Johnston was already dead.

His widow said that he was fit to fly, despite having had double bypass surgery nine years ago.

“Instead of a major medical every year, he had a major medical every six months because of his medical past,” she said.

The couple was about to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. They had eight children and three grandchildren and lived outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

“When you first hear, you don't know how to feel, you don’t believe it. It's just numb, you’re just numb,” she said.

Betty said her husband's love of flying began when he was a child: “His dad was a navigator in the Air Force, and he was on the air base watching the airplanes come up and fly over.

“He looked at his mom – he was probably about four -- and said, ‘I'm going to fly me one of those one day,” she said. 

In an exclusive video, he is seen teaching Boy Scouts about flying.

“You push on the rudder, it's going to push it sideways, and it's going to also roll,” said Johnston in the video, given to INSIDE EDITION by his family.

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As he suffered the heart attack mid-flight on Monday, the co-pilot was heard saying in a call to the control tower: “Medical emergency. Captain incapacitated.”

He asked: “Are they going to have a way to get to the airplane quickly, or do we need to go to a gate?”

The control tower replied, “They will have a way to get in the airplane quickly.”

The co-pilot said, “We'll need them to get to the captain. Thank you.”

But he had already passed away.

A flag at a neighbor's home flew at half-staff on Wednesday in his memory.

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