Harry Reid Airport Flight Returns to Vegas After Pilot Falls Ill Midair

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Posted on: March 23, 2023, 05:33h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2023, 05:33h.

An off-duty pilot flying as a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight assisted in landing a plane in Las Vegas after a regular pilot fell ill on Wednesday.

Clark County Fire Department crews and other officials meet a plane at Harry Reid Airport
Clark County Fire Department crews and other officials meet a plane at Harry Reid International Airport, pictured above. The Southwest Airlines plane was forced to return to Las Vegas after a pilot fell ill. (Image: KSNV)

The Southwest plane had left Harry Reid International Airport in the early morning and was heading to Columbus, Ohio. At 6:33 a.m., a pilot suffered a medical emergency which was described as including stomach pain and fainting, ABC News reported.

During the flight, someone told ground crew over the radio the pilot was stricken and “became incapacitated,” a monitored radio transmission from the plane revealed.

He is in the back of the aircraft right now with the flight attendants. But we need to get him on an ambulance immediately,” the flight crew announced in a radio broadcast, according to ABC.

A nurse on the flight helped to treat the ill pilot.

He apparently was transported to a hospital upon landing in Las Vegas. His condition as of Thursday wasn’t immediately available. It’s unclear what caused his illness.

Off-Duty Pilot Handled Communications

With the help of the unnamed off-duty pilot, the plane was able to return to Harry Reid Airport. That pilot worked for a different airline.

He went into the cockpit and assisted with radio communications while a second Southwest pilot flew the plane, the report said.

“We commend the crew for their superb airmanship and professionalism in the handling of this event,” Southwest said in a statement republished in a tweet.

The Southwest plane was in the air for about 1 hour and 17 minutes, CNN reported citing data from FlightAware.com. The plane flew over southern Utah, north of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before it was forced to return and land in Las Vegas, the Independent reported.

The flight landed in Las Vegas safely at about 8 a.m. It was identified as Southwest Flight 6013.

After landing, Southwest put on a different flight crew to fly the passengers later on Wednesday to Columbus where the plane landed safely at John Glenn Columbus International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched an investigation into the incident.

Fifth Incapacitated Pilot Within Two Weeks

Wednesday’s incident marks the “fifth pilot incapacitation that I’m aware of in the past two weeks,” Josh Yoder, an airline pilot, said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

If the off-duty pilot wasn’t on the plane, a flight attendant reportedly could have assisted in the cockpit, while the second pilot flew the plane.

“We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation,” Southwest Airlines said in a statement quoted by Las Vegas TV station KVVU.

During the Christmas holidays, numerous complaints were made about delayed and canceled Southwest flights that were supposed to land or take off from Harry Reid Airport.

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