Off-duty pilot who was a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight helped land the plane after the captain fell ill mid-flight: Fifth pilot collapses in past three weeks
- The off-duty pilot of another airline was on board and ready to intervene.
- Aviation observers said this was the fifth pilot illness in just three weeks.
An off-duty pilot who was a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight stepped in to help land the plane after one of the pilots fell ill.
Flight 6013 was bound for Columbus, Ohio, from Las Vegas on Wednesday when a medical emergency broke out mid-flight.
One of the pilots required urgent medical attention, leaving only one pilot fit to fly the plane.
But luckily, the off-duty pilot of another airline was on board and ready to intervene at a moment’s notice.
The latest incident follows a series of reports in which pilots fell ill mid-flight. Aviation observers have said this was the fifth time in just three weeks.
Flight 6013 was bound for Columbus, Ohio, from Las Vegas on Wednesday when a mid-flight medical emergency broke out (file image)
The off-duty pilot was able to assist with radio communication while the other Southwest pilot took control of the aircraft and landed it safely in Las Vegas, where a replacement flight crew was brought in.
“An accredited pilot from another airline, who was on board, entered the flight deck and assisted with radio communication while our Southwest pilot was flying the plane,” a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told CNN.
“We greatly appreciate your support and assistance.”
A nurse who was a passenger on the flight also stepped in to help the sick pilot. His current status is unknown.
Data from FlightAware.com showed the plane was airborne for one hour and six minutes. The plane banked and turned to return to Las Vegas about 26 minutes after takeoff.
“The flight landed safely and an alternate flight crew is operating the flight to CMH (Columbus),” an airline statement said.
“We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation.”
The Federal Aviation Administration said it will investigate the incident, as is procedure.
This is the latest in a series of aviation incidents in recent weeks with several pilots on duty becoming ill and unable to fly.
Earlier this month, a transatlantic flight from Milan to New York was forced to turn back after the pilot fell ill 30 minutes into the flight. Similarly, a United Airlines flight from Guatemala to Chicago also had to be diverted because a ‘disabled pilot’ reportedly had chest pains just two weeks ago.
The off-duty pilot was able to assist with radio communication while the other Southwest pilot took control of the aircraft and landed it safely in Las Vegas (file image)
Pilot Josh Yoder, who has a large following on Twitter, said that in the latest incident at Southwestern, the fifth pilot fell ill mid-flight earlier this month.
He tweeted: ‘This is now the fifth incapacitation of a pilot that I am aware of in the last two weeks. I will post more details as they become available.
The US Department of Transportation issued a safety alert to aircraft operators yesterday, warning that “several recent highly visible and notable events demonstrate the need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigate safety risks.”
“While the overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning,” it added.
This year alone, there have been six serious runway incursions in the past three months.
Southwest Airlines reported that it was about to slam the runway to a halt when an ambulance cut into its path in Baltimore. In another near collision, a FedEx plane and a Southwest Airlines plane reportedly came within 100 feet of each other.