Off-duty pilot steps in to help incapacitated Southwest pilot on flight headed to Columbus

A Southwest Airlines plane at Denver International Airport on Feb. 5, 2023.
A Southwest Airlines plane at Denver International Airport on Feb. 5, 2023.

An off-duty pilot stepped in to help fly a Southwest Airline's flight en route for Columbus on Wednesday after the pilot experienced a medical emergency.

The incident took place not long after Flight 6013 took off from Las Vegas, Southwest Airlines told USA TODAY on Thursday. One of the pilots “needed medical attention,” the airline said.

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“A credentialed Ppilot from another airline, who was on board, entered the Flight Deck and assisted with radio communication while our Southwest Pilot flew the aircraft,” said airline spokesperson Chris Perry. “We greatly appreciate their support and assistance.”

'The captain became incapacitated'

In air traffic control audio from, CNN reported a member of the flight crew is heard saying, “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."


Information from the tracking site shows the plane was in the air for about 1 hour and 17 minutes.

The flight then landed safely back in Las Vegas, and an alternate flight crewFlight Crew operated the flight to its final destination, the airline said.

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It was not immediately known what type of medical emergency left the pilot incapacitated.

But Perry said the pilot was able to walk off the aircraft with assistance and was transported to a medical facility.

The pilot's condition on Thursday was not released by airline officials.

No other injuries on board were reported.

"We commend the Ccrew for their professionalism and appreciate our Ccustomers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation," Perry said.

The incident is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pilot steps in to help incapacitated pilot on flight headed to Columbus