Pilot who was a passenger on Southwest Airlines flight helps land the plane safely in Las Vegas after captain falls ill

Pilot who was a passenger on Southwest Airlines flight helps land the plane safely in Las Vegas after captain falls ill
(Representational photo/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, OHIO: An off-duty pilot who was boarding a Southwest Airlines flight as a passenger took over and helped land the plane after one of the pilots fell ill. Flight 6013 from Las Vegas was destined to land in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, March 22, when a medical emergency erupted mid-flight. 

Apparently, one of the pilots urgently required medical attention which left only one pilot in a position to fly the plane. This is when the off-duty pilot from another airline offered his assistance, stepping in at a moment's notice. The latest incident adds to the long string of reports where pilots felt their health deteriorating mid-flight. According to the Daily Mail, aviation watchers have said this was the fifth time in just three weeks. After taking over, the off-duty pilot assisted with radio communication while the other Southwest pilot was in control of the aircraft and landed it safely back in Las Vegas. A replacement flight crew was brought in upon arrival. 


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'The flight landed safely'

Speaking to CNN, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said: "A credentialed Pilot from another airline, who was on board, entered the Flight Deck and assisted with radio communication while our Southwest Pilot flew the aircraft. We greatly appreciate their support and assistance." A nurse who was reportedly also boarding the flight also stepped in to assist the unwell pilot. At the moment, his current condition is unknown. 


FlightAware’s report stated the plane was in the air for one hour and six minutes. The plane banked and turned around to head back to Las Vegas around 26 minutes after its take-off. "The flight landed safely, and an alternate flight crew is operating the flight to CMH (Columbus)," a statement from the airline said. "We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customer’s patience and understanding regarding the situation." The Federal Aviation Administration said that they will be investigating the incident.

A string of aviation incidents

Recent weeks have found a string of aviation incidents where on-duty pilots have become unwell and unable to fly. Earlier in March, a transatlantic flight from Milan to New York had to turn back after the pilot was taken ill 30 minutes into the flight. Another such incident took place two weeks ago when a United Airlines flight from Guatemala to Chicago had to divert because an "incapacitated pilot" had chest pains.

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 Off-duty pilot on helps land plane safely after captain falls ill