An Alaska Airlines jet liner headed for Seattle had to make an emergency landing in Portland, OR on Thursday night after its pilot lost consciousness.
Fortunately for the passengers and the pilot, who has not been identified, the co-pilot of the Boeing 737-700 was able to divert the plane while a doctor on board tended to the pilot. The junior officer successfully landed the plane at Portland International Airport, where emergency medics were waiting on the runway.
Airline spokesman Paul McElroy said that they did not yet know what had caused the pilot, who has 28 years of flying experience with Alaska Airlines, to pass out. McElroy added that the pilot was up to date on his six-month medical evaluation.
"Doctors suspect he became ill due to food-poisoning or the flu virus," McElroy said, adding that there had been no injuries to passengers. However, the incident marks the second time in a month that an Alaska Airlines pilot has fainted during a flight.
On Jan. 22, a co-pilot lost consciousness between Seattle and Las Vegas, and the pilot of that flight also had to make an emergency landing. “That first officer was infected with the flu. We know that for sure," McElroy said, referring to the earlier incident, which he described as a “bizarre coincidence.”
Although it was not clear whether passengers onboard immediately understood what was going on, many were visibly upset by the news, ABC reported.
In an interview with the news oulet, a passenger on the flight described witnessing the event as it took place.
"I'm seeing the cockpit open completely and the pilot had come out, barged through the door, and fell on the aisle. He either passed out or had a stroke or something," the passenger said. "Then the flight attendant was going up and down the aisle saying, 'Are there any paramedics, doctors, nurses, someone that can come and help?'"
The plane had been scheduled to arrive in Seattle at 9:30 p.m., but inevitably landed in Portland at 9:05 p.m. 20 of the 116 passengers had pressing connecting flights and were flown to Seattle on a shuttle plane. The other passengers remained onboard until a new pilot was brought on.
To contact the editor, e-mail: