When the captain of a Southwest flight had a medical emergency on Wednesday, an off-duty pilot from another airline on board stepped up to help. The incident happened on Flight 6013, which took off at 6:33 a.m. from Las Vegas en route to Columbus, Ohio, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
“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,” said Southwest spokesperson Chris Perry told CNN. “We greatly appreciate their support and assistance.”
Perry didn’t share any details about the captain’s health issue, but air traffic control audio from LiveATC.net captured a person saying that the pilot “became incapacitated” and needed to get in an ambulance immediately.
Diane McGlinchey, a Las Vegas resident who was on the flight, told NBC News on Thursday that a nurse also volunteered to help after crew members asked if any medical personnel were on board. McGlinchey and her husband weren’t aware it was the pilot who needed assistance.
The crew “calmly just would give us an update saying we’re going to go back to Las Vegas, we have a medical emergency on board,” McGlinchey told NBC News.
After spending only an hour and 17 minutes in the air, the plane returned to Las Vegas, a backup crew boarded, and the flight continued to Columbus as scheduled. While the ill pilot received medical attention when the plane landed, Southwest didn’t release any further information about his condition or the incident.
U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations indicate that at least two pilots must be present on the flight deck of a passenger or cargo transport aircraft, which ensures there is a trained professional to operate the plane in case of an emergency like this one. But having the off-duty pilot on board for the Southwest emergency was extra helpful.
“All Southwest pilots are trained to fly as single pilots for situations such as this one and our pilot exhibited exceptional airmanship while in control of the aircraft,” the airline said in a statement.
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