PORTLAND -- Alaska Airlines flight 473 from Los Angeles bound for Seattle was diverted to Portland late Thursday night after its pilot lost consciousness.
Airline spokesman Paul McElroy said the co-pilot landed the plane safely after declaring an emergency to get priority care for the pilot.
The spokesman said the pilot lost consciousness somewhere over Oregon. He later regained consciousness and left the cockpit. He passed out due to food poisoning or a flu-like virus, said McElory.
The airline will not identify him, he said. He remains 'in the Portland area' and his condition has improved considerably, McElroy said.
“The flight attendant was going up and down the aisles asking for help," passenger Rita Slobodkin told KGW. "We didn’t know if it was the pilot or co-pilot, didn’t know who was flying the plane or if it was going to land.”
“He came out of the cockpit and collapsed, hit his head on something," said Hylan Slobodkin. "Fortunately a fourth year medical student ran to his aid.”
The Boeing 737-700 with 116 passengers and five crew members left Los Angeles about 6:30 p.m. PST and touched down in Portland at about 9 p.m. Passengers didn’t arrive in Seattle until after 1a.m.
McElroy said the pilot has been flying for Alaska for 28 years and was current on his six-month medical evaluation. The co-pilot has 11 years experience.