Usually, babies are born in hospital wards that provide the highest level of care for both the newborn and the mother.
Usually, the mother is taken care of by an expert medical staff, fully equipped with knowledge of the best procedure, the necessary instruments, and medications.
Well, that’s usually.
Sometimes things just don’t go as planned and people are forced to adapt to given conditions.
Women have given birth in the strangest of places ─ in cars, on their way to the hospital, in libraries, post offices, and restaurants, or even on the sidewalk.
One woman even gave birth while up a tree in Mozambique, as the entire area was flooded and she climbed the branches in order to escape drowning. When she was rescued by a helicopter, her umbilical cord was still attached to the baby.
But what happens when a woman goes into labor while mid-air?
First of all, it isn’t exactly allowed to fly if you are in the late stage of pregnancy. Most airline companies forbid future mothers from flying after week 37 of pregnancy, or week 32 for twins (or more). Many even require a “fit to fly” document from their family doctor after week 28.
Still, it is highly unpredictable when a woman will go into labor, and these things tend to happen when one least expects it.
This certainly was the case with Fatma Geldi, who gave birth to her son, Erkan, while traveling on a Turkish Airlines plane headed from Izmir, Turkey, to Frankfurt, Germany. On September 9, 1990, Fatma was on her way to visit her husband who was working in Germany at the time, when suddenly ─ her waters broke.
She called for the flight attendant, who swiftly made the announcement:
“Is there a doctor on board?”
Both Fatma and the stewardess feared that the labor was going to have to proceed without professional help. Luckily, a man lifted his hand.
Baby born on flight to Orlando, made emergency landing in Charleston
A great sigh of relief must have passed through the plane, as the man said that he was a gynecologist. Even though luck appeared to be on their side, the doctor emphasized that he was fresh from medical school, with little real experience.
Nevertheless, he was the only expert on board. He took Fatma to the cockpit and the pilot cleared a space where the birth was to take place. They delivery proceeded without incident.
When it was announced that the baby was born healthy, it put a smile on everyone’s face. The newborn was named Erkan, in honor of the pilot, Erkan Süzer, who kept his calm and landed the plane safely on the Frankfurt runway, with one additional passenger aboard.
But the story of Erkan doesn’t end there. After finishing high school in Germany, the air-born baby returned to his parent’s homeland, Turkey, and studied English at Bakılesir University. There he received a bachelors degree and set out to find work.
What might look like an interesting twist of fate seemed only natural for Erkan, as he applied for a job as a flight attendant for Turkish Airlines. When asked to tell his story to the Daily Sabah in 2015, Erkan mentioned his job interview experience:
“When they asked me why I wanted to be a flight attendant during the interview, I told them I was born on a plane.”
One could say he was born for the job. Erkan was accepted, and as soon as he started working, he expressed his wish to try to become a pilot.
Apart from him, three other people have been born aboard Turkish Airlines flights ─ in 2000, in 2003, and most recently in 2017. In his interview for the Daily Sabah, Erkan stated that he didn’t yet have the chance to witness a birth in mid-air, but the young flight attendant added that if he does, he will be ready and willing to assist.
Nikola Budanovic is a freelance journalist who has worked for various media outlets such as Vice, War History Online, The Vintage News, and Taste of Cinema. His main areas of interest are history, particularly military history, literature and film.