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Southwest captain becomes 'incapacitated' mid-flight, off-duty pilot from another airline helps land plane

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Southwest Airlines pilot became "incapacitated" during a recent flight. Luckily for the flight out of Las Vegas, there was an off-duty pilot who helped land the commercial airliner.

Southwest Flight #6013 departed Harry Reid International Airport at 6:33 a.m. on Wednesday. But soon after takeoff, the captain became "incapacitated" and "needed medical attention," a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said.

"The captain became incapacitated while en route. He’s in the back of the aircraft right now with a flight attendant, but we need to get him on an ambulance immediately," a flight crew member is heard saying in air traffic control audio from LiveATC.net, according to CNN.

The airline did not provide a detailed account of the health issues that the pilot encountered. NBC News reported that someone was heard saying the captain had experienced stomach pain and "fainted," according to the air traffic control audio.

An off-duty pilot from another airline stepped up to help navigate the plane, scheduled to fly to Columbus, Ohio.

"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. "We greatly appreciate their support and assistance."

The off-duty pilot helped return the Boeing 737 to the airport in Las Vegas after an hour and 17 minutes in the air, according to flight data from FlightAware. Another flight crew came in, and the plane continued to Columbus.

Southwest Airlines said, "It's standard procedure for our flight crews to request assistance from traveling medical personnel during in-flight medical events involving customers, this situation just so happened to involve one of our employees."

"We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation," the spokesperson added.

Southwest Airlines did not provide any updates on the pilot's condition.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

The FAA issued a warning on Wednesday urging pilots to take "safety actions." The FAA statement advised pilots to be aware of the risks of collisions during runway crossings.

Last month, an Air Canada airliner nearly collided with an American Airlines plane on the runway at the Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport in Florida.

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