A pilot had a medical emergency on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio today. The pilot was removed from the flight deck when this occurred, according to a spokesperson for the airline, and a pilot from another airline who happened to be on board “assisted with radio communication” with the other Southwest pilot commanded the aircraft.
This incident was first reported on Twitter by Charlotte-based American Airlines Airbus first officer Josh Yoder.
I’m being notified by passengers on a Southwest flight departing Las Vegas that the captain became incapacitated soon after takeoff this morning. He was removed from the flight deck and replaced by a non Southwest pilot who was commuting on that flight. This is now the fifth…
— Josh Yoder (@JoshYoder) March 22, 2023
The aircraft initially departed on schedule, flew out over Utah north of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before returning to the gate in Las Vegas nearly two hours later. The 18 year old ex-China Eastern 737-700 finally departed again for Columbus at 11:02 a.m. – four hours and 22 minutes after originally-scheduled departure – and arrived in Columbus at 5:01 p.m.
According to Southwest Airlines spokesperson Chris Perry,
Southwest Flight 6013 from Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio returned to LAS after departure on Wednesday when one of our Pilots needed medical attention. The flight landed safely, and an alternate Flight Crew is operating the flight to CMH. We commend the Crew for their professionalism and appreciate our Customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation.
Naturally everyone’s thoughts are with the pilot who required assistance. Two pilots still make sense in the cockpit, though eventually that will change. Still, the single remaining Southwest Airlines pilot would have been capable of returning the aircraft to the ground. Having another airline pilot available to assist, though details aren’t available on whether they were type-rated for the 737, was certainly helpful and an additional stroke of luck.
My second thought of course went to a pilot falling ill in the cockpit and Ted Striker being asked to assist with the radio.