Southwest pilot suffers medical emergency on flight, off-duty pilot helps land plane

BySam Sweeney ABCNews logo
Thursday, March 23, 2023
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An off-duty pilot jumped into action Wednesday after a Southwest Airlines pilot suffered a medical emergency mid-flight, airline officials said.

Southwest Flight 6013 had just taken off for its trip between Las Vegas and Columbus, Ohio, around 6:33 a.m. when the pilot had a medical emergency, Southwest Airlines said in a statement. Crew members reported that the captain had stomach pain and fainted, according to air traffic control radio.

An off-duty pilot from a different airline, who was traveling as a passenger, entered the flight deck and assisted the crew with radio calls as they turned around and headed back to Las Vegas, according to Southwest.

"He is in the back of the aircraft right now with the flight attendants. But we need to get him on an ambulance immediately," an unidentified pilot in the cockpit told air traffic controllers, according to air traffic audio.

The plane made it back to Las Vegas where emergency health crews tended to the captain, according to the airline.

"We greatly appreciate their support and assistance," Southwest said of the off-duty pilot in a statement.

The Southwest pilot's status was not immediately disclosed. An alternate flight crew was called in and the passengers made it to their destination later in the day, according to Southwest.

"We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers' patience and understanding regarding the situation," Southwest said in a statement.

The FAA said it is investigating the incident.