Off-duty pilot rushes to help when Southwest Airlines captain becomes ‘incapacitated’ after takeoff

An off-duty pilot who was aboard a Southwest Airlines flight this Wednesday from Las Vegas to Columbus, Ohio had to rush in and help the flight crew after the captain reportedly suffered a medical emergency mid-flight.

“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. We greatly appreciate their support and assistance,” a Southwest spokesperson told CNN.

Reportedly not that long after the flight took off, the captain began to experience stomach pain. He soon after “fainted or became incapacitated,” according to radio traffic archived by the website LiveATC, as reported by NBC News.

The person overheard saying this later said the captain “came back” roughly a minute later and was being examined in the back of the plane.

“We need to get him on an ambulance immediately,” the person reportedly said.

CNN notes that a nurse who was also aboard the plane “helped care for” the captain as the unnamed off-duty pilot rushed to help.

“It’s standard procedure for our Flight Crews to request assistance from traveling medical personnel during in-flight medical events involving Customers, this situation just so happened to involve one of our Employees,” the airline said.

Meanwhile, with the off-duty pilot’s help, the remaining flight crew was able to land the plane back in Las Vegas, after which another crew took over and completed the flight to Columbus.

“The condition of the pilot who required medical attention was not immediately clear Thursday morning,” according to NBC News.

Critics have noted that this medical emergency occurred not long after the Federal Aviation Administration lowered its cardiac health requirements for pilots.

“The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) broadened a standard for normal heart function in pilots because medical evidence showed no symptoms or additional health risk up to the raised threshold,” Reuters reported in February.

At the time the standards were loosened, anti-COVID-vaccine critics claimed that the standards had to be so reduced because so many pilots suffered heart damage from consuming the COVID vaccine.

However, this particular narrative has been pushed back upon by numerous “fact-checkers,” including the ones at PolitiFact.

“The Federal Aviation Administration told PolitiFact it raised the cutoff for a first degree ventricular block from 200 milliseconds, or 0.2 seconds, to 300 milliseconds, or 0.3 seconds, because the agency’s cardiology consultants provided information indicating that a PR interval under 0.3 seconds isn’t a risk for subtle or sudden incapacitation,” the “fact-checker” reported in January.

PolitiFact also revealed a quote from the FAA saying that there’s “no evidence of aircraft accidents or incapacitations caused by pilots suffering medical complications associated with COVID-19 vaccines.”

“When making changes to medical requirements and guidance, the FAA follows standard processes based on data and science. New scientific evidence enabled the FAA to safely raise the tolerance used to screen for a certain heart condition,” the quote continues.

That said, this theory has reemerged amid what happened Wednesday, with Josh Yoder, a commercial airline pilot who runs the U.S. Freedom Flyers advocacy group, leading the charge:

But like before, the “fact-checkers” say this is incorrect.

Yoder is notable because he was also a big critic of the FAA’s decision to lower standards.

Speaking with The Epoch Times in January, he expressed the fear that the loosening of the standards might pose a danger to passengers.

“This worry is especially acute amid rising reports of cardiac arrest and sudden death since the COVID pandemic began in 2020, according to the Times.

Combined, these factors make for a very worrisome mix, he said.

“This is a ticking time bomb on a level like we’ve never seen,” he told the Times.


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