(NEXSTAR) — An off-duty pilot was on a Southwest flight heading to central Ohio when they aided the flight crew while an operating pilot was suffering a medical emergency.
Southwest Airlines Flight 6013 had just departed from Las Vegas when one of the pilots required medical attention, a representative tells Nexstar. Federal Aviation Administration officials told CBS News that the flight, which was on its way to Columbus, landed around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday at Harry Reid International Airport after roughly an hour in the air.
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 was treated in the back of the plane.
Thankfully, a credentialed pilot from another airline was among the passengers on Wednesday’s Southwest flight. That pilot then entered the flight deck and helped with radio communication while the second Southwest pilot flew the plane back to Las Vegas. After landing in Las Vegas, an alternate flight crew reportedly flew to Columbus. No update was immediately 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,” the airline representative added.
Pilots are trained to fly solo in cases such as these, officials tell Nexstar. Had the off-duty pilot not been aboard the Southwest flight, a flight attendant could have stepped into the flight deck to assist.
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.
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.