Off-duty pilot steps in to help land Southwest flight after pilot becomes ‘incapacitated’

(NEXSTAR) – An off-duty pilot was on the right flight at the right time Wednesday after the plane’s pilot experienced a medical emergency.

Southwest Airlines Flight 6013 had just taken off from Las Vegas when one of the pilots required medical attention, according to a Nexstar representative. Additional details about the pilot’s medical condition were not available.

A flight crew member can be heard saying the pilot had stomach pains before they “became unconscious or incapacitated”, according to recordings obtained by LiveATC. The pilot “came back” after about a minute, someone in the archived video says, and was taken to the back of the plane.

Fortunately, an accredited pilot from another airline was among the passengers on Wednesday’s Southwest flight. That pilot then stepped into the cockpit and assisted with radio communications while the other Southwest pilot flew the plane back to Las Vegas.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said CBS News that the flight, which was en route to Columbus, Ohio, landed around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday at Harry Reid International Airport after about an hour in the air.

After landing in Las Vegas, the second crew reportedly flew to Columbus. No update on the pilot’s condition or medical issues has been released, the report said.

“We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers regarding the situation,” added the airline representative.

Pilots are trained to fly solo in such cases, officials tell Nexstar. If the off-duty pilot had not been on the Southwest flight, the flight attendant could have entered the flight deck to assist.

Federal Aviation Administration officials said CBS News they are now investigating. The pilot’s health problem was not disclosed as of Thursday.

Although rare, similar cases where pilots become incapacitated – and someone else takes the controls – are not unheard of. Last spring, a a man with no flying experience successfully landed the plane at Palm Beach International after the pilot suffered an apparent medical emergency.

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