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 suffered a medical emergency.

Southwest Airlines Flight 6013 had just departed from Las Vegas when one of the pilots required medical attention, the airlines told USA Today and NBC. Additional details about the pilot’s health issue weren’t available.

As heard in recordings obtained by LiveATC, a member of the flight crew can be heard saying the pilot had stomach pain before they “fainted or became incapacitated.” The pilot “came back” after about a minute, someone says in the archived recording, and had been taken to the back of the plane.

Thankfully, a pilot from another airline was among the passengers on Wednesday’s Southwest flight. That pilot then stepped into the flight deck and helped with radio communication while the second Southwest pilot flew the plane back to Las Vegas.

Federal Aviation Administration officials told CBS News that the flight, which was on its way to Columbus, Ohio, landed around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday at Harry Reid International Airport after roughly an hour in the air.

After landing in Las Vegas, an alternate flight crew reportedly flew to Columbus. No update had been given on the pilot’s condition, or medical issue, the report indicated.

“We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation,” Southwest said to CBS News.

Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration told CBS News they are now investigating. The pilot’s medical issue had not been disclosed as of Thursday.

Southwest Airlines didn’t immediately respond to Nexstar’s request for comment.

While rare, similar instances of pilots becoming incapacitated — and someone else grabbing the controls — are not unheard-of. Last spring, a man with no flying experience landed a plane successfully at Palm Beach International after the pilot suffered an apparent medical emergency.

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