A Porter Airlines flight out of Halifax was forced to turn back Saturday after the pilot began losing consciousness and the co-pilot quickly took control of the aircraft.

The airline reported that the co-pilot of Flight 243, which was en route to St. John's, N.L., brought the aircraft back to Halifax without incident and landed safely at 11:44 a.m.

The plane, a Q400 with a capacity of 70 passengers, left Halifax at 10:30 a.m. and the pilot's problem was reported at around 11:16 a.m.

"We received a call that the pilot was needing assistance, he was losing consciousness," said Barnes. "We had ambulances standing by."

Barnes said the pilot was able to walk off the plane and into a waiting ambulance, although there was no word on his condition or on what caused his health problem.

He was later taken to a Halifax hospital for assessment.

Porter Airlines president and CEO Robert Deluce said the pilot is a 39-year-old with 7,000 hours of total flying time.

"The first officer who took charge was a 29-year-old pilot and has almost 4,000 hours of total flying time so they are both fairly experienced guys," said Deluce.

Deluce, who confirmed the pilot did briefly lose consciousness on the return to Halifax, said he didn't know the exact nature of the pilot's health problem.

"It is an unknown condition at this point," he said.

The airline brought in a replacement crew and the flight departed for St. John's at 1:18 p.m.