Off-duty pilot helps land Southwest plane after captain becomes ‘incapacitated’

An off-duty pilot traveling on a Southwest flight stepped up and helped to land the plane after its captain suddenly experienced a medical emergency, the airline said.

The Columbus, Ohio-bound Southwest Airlines flight returned to Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas around 8 a.m. Wednesday, about two hours after takeoff. The plane was forced to turn around after its pilot “required medical attention,” according to the airline’s statement.

“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,” Southwest said. “We greatly appreciate their support and assistance.”

A nurse who was also on board helped care for the pilot, CNN reported. The pilot’s condition Thursday was unclear.

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

The plane was in the air for 1 hour and 17 minutes, according to the flight tracking site It traveled from the Vegas airport and over Utah, north of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, before turning around.

When the plane arrived back in Vegas, another crew boarded and made sure passengers arrived at the intended destination. The Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing what happened.