Plane lands safely after pilot loses consciousness

An Alaska Airlines jetliner bound for Seattle made an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon, last night after the pilot lost consciousness, an airline spokesman said.

The co-pilot landed Flight 473 safely after declaring an emergency to get priority care for the pilot, spokesman Paul McElroy said. All of the airlines' pilots are trained to fly single-handedly.

The pilot lost consciousness "somewhere over Oregon," McElroy said, then later regained consciousness and left the cockpit. A doctor on board the flight tended to him in the cabin until the plane landed and was met by medical personnel on the runway.

The pilot, who was not identified, was taken to a hospital but there was no immediate word on his condition, McElroy said.

The Boeing 737-700 with 116 passengers and five crew members left Los Angeles about 6:30 pm and touched down in Portland at about 9 pm. It had been due to arrive in Seattle at 9:30 pm.

McElroy says the pilot has been flying for Alaska for 28 years and was current on his six-month medical evaluation. The co-pilot is an 11-year Alaska Air veteran.

On January 22, the co-pilot on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Las Vegas fainted briefly, and the pilot requested emergency landing priority to get prompt medical assistance for him.

"At this point we do not believe there was a connection between the two incidents," McElvoy said.

Twenty passengers with a tight schedule for connecting flights were put on a Horizon Air shuttle flight to Seattle last night, the spokesman said.

A new pilot was dispatched to Portland to fly the remaining passengers to Seattle on board the same plane.

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