Alaska Airlines' Fainting Pilots

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Alaska Airlines says illness caused one of its pilots to pass out Thursday, while flying a Boeing 737-700 with 116 aboard out of Los Angeles for Seattle, leading the copilot to declare an emergency, divert, and land safely at Portland. The pilot, who has reportedly flown with the airline for 28 years, stood up while the aircraft was at cruise and flying on autopilot. While leaving the cockpit, he became dizzy, lost consciousness and fell to the floor in the cabin in front of passengers. The airline says the pilot suffered from an illness that it reported non-specifically as a food or flu-like virus. Alaska Airlines experienced a similar fainting episode on Jan. 22.

In the most recent incident, the copilot, an 11-year veteran of the airline, assumed command when the pilot became incapacitated. A doctor was summoned from the cabin and gave care to the pilot until they were met by medical personnel upon landing. The flight continued with different crew members. The Jan. 22 incident involved an Alaska Airlines flight out of Seattle for Las Vegas with 146 aboard. In that case, the copilot briefly lost consciousness while the aircraft was flying on autopilot roughly one half hour before landing. The pilot declared an emergency and landed with priority at Las Vegas. The copilot was taken to a hospital for evaluation and the hospital declined to release more information. In both cases, the pilots held current medical certificates.