Pilot Becomes Ill During Flight from Harry Reid Airport, Forcing Plane to Return to Las Vegas

An off-duty pilot flying as a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight came to the aid of the aircraft and assisted in landing it in Las Vegas after the regular pilot fell ill on Wednesday.

Clark County Fire Department personnel and other officials met the plane at Harry Reid International Airport, which was pictured by news channel KSNV. The Southwest Airlines plane was compelled to return to Las Vegas after the pilot experienced nausea and fainted.

The Southwest plane had taken off from Harry Reid International Airport in the morning and was headed to Columbus, Ohio. At 6:33 a.m., the pilot suffered a medical emergency which included stomach pain and loss of consciousness, according to ABC News.

During the flight, an announcement was made over the radio that the pilot was stricken and “became incapacitated”, as per a monitored radio transmission from the plane.

It was relayed that the pilot was in the back of the aircraft with the flight attendants and needed to be taken to a hospital via ambulance as soon as possible. A nurse on the flight provided medical assistance to the ill pilot.

The off-duty pilot, who flew for a different airline, went into the cockpit and assisted with radio communication while a second Southwest pilot flew the plane. Southwest Airlines expressed their gratitude for the crew’s ‘superb airmanship and professionalism’ in a statement.

The plane was in the air for about 1 hour and 17 minutes and flew over southern Utah, north of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before it was forced to return and land in Las Vegas. It was identified as Southwest Flight 6013.

After landing, Southwest organized a different flight crew to fly the passengers to Columbus and the plane arrived safely at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration has begun an investigation into the incident.

Wednesday’s incident marks the fifth time in the past two weeks that a pilot was incapacitated, according to an airline pilot named Josh Yoder on Twitter. If there was no off-duty pilot on board, a flight attendant could have stepped in to help in the cockpit, while the second pilot flew the plane.

Southwest Airlines expressed their appreciation for the crew’s professionalism and thanked customers for their patience and understanding in a statement quoted by Las Vegas TV station KVVU. Complaints had been made around the Christmas holidays about delayed and canceled Southwest flights at Harry Reid Airport.