Southwest Pilot Becomes 'Incapacitated' in Midair, Off-Duty Pilot from Another Airline Forced to Step In
The pilot of a Southwest Airlines aircraft became unable to perform his duties Wednesday during a flight from Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio.
As a result, a pilot from another airline who happened to be traveling on the plane was pressed into service as the plane returned to Las Vegas, according to NBC.
“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,” Southwest representative Chris Perry said, according to CNN.
“We greatly appreciate their support and assistance,” Perry said.
Perry said it was “standard procedure for our flight crews to request assistance from traveling medical personnel during in-flight medical events involving customers, this situation just so happened to involve one of our employees.”
Southwest said that a nurse who was aboard the flight helped tend to the pilot.
The airline did not release the nature of the medical emergency suffered by the pilot.
A radio transmission indicated the pilot needed medical attention urgently.
“The captain became incapacitated while en route. He’s in the back of the aircraft right now with a flight attendant, but we need to get him on an ambulance immediately,” a member of the flight crew said during an audio transmission monitored by LiveATC.net, CNN reported.
NBC reported that the air traffic monitored by the site said the pilot initially suffered stomach pain.
He “fainted or became incapacitated” about five minutes later, NBC reported.
A post on Substack by Dr. William Makis claimed this incident was the fifth this month involving pilots taken ill, claiming three others took place while the aircraft was in the air.
I’m being notified by passengers on a Southwest flight departing Las Vegas that the captain became incapacitated soon after takeoff this morning. He was removed from the flight deck and replaced by a non Southwest pilot who was commuting on that flight. This is now the fifth…
— Josh Yoder (@JoshYoder) March 22, 2023
The website FlightAware.com indicated that the plane was airborne for about one hour and 17 minutes.
Southwest said that after the plane returned, a backup crew was brought out and the flight went to Columbus.
“We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation,” a Southwest representative said, according to NBC.
The condition of the pilot was not disclosed.
The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident.
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