Federal aviation officials on Thursday released details of a May 17 incident in which the pilot of a small plane became incapacitated from lack of oxygen, and his wife, also in the cockpit, teamed with air-traffic controllers and nearby pilots to get the endangered aircraft lower so the pilot could recover and land safely.

The couple were flying a Cirrus SR22 from San Bernardino, Calif., to Colorado Springs at an altitude of 17,000 feet at midday when a controller in the Federal Aviation Administration's Longmont control center noticed the pilot was slurring his speech.

"I think you might be experiencing some hypoxia; would you like a lower altitude?" controller Charlie Rohrer asked the pilot, according to the FAA transcript of the incident.

Hypoxia is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen getting to bodily tissues.

At that point, the plane was about 20 miles south of Cortez, according to the FAA, which did not identify the Cirrus' occupants.

Rohrer, a 22-year air-traffic- control veteran, told the pilot he wanted him to descend to 13,000 or 12,000 feet to help alleviate the hypoxia.

"I'm trying to help. Hang on," said the pilot's wife.

Pilots of a Great Lakes Airlines plane flying nearby offered assistance, and Rohrer told that flight crew that he heard a woman's voice in the cockpit of the troubled plane.

"Hang on, hang on, I'm trying to get him to put autopilot. . . . I don't know how to do this," the woman said over the radio.

Over the next 12 minutes or so, Rohrer and the Great Lakes pilots worked with the woman to help guide the Cirrus away from high terrain and to a lower altitude.

"Is the pilot able to fly or are you doing it yourself?" Rohrer asked her.

"He's getting there," she said.

About 20 minutes after the Cirrus pilot stopped communicating, he was back on the radio. The Great Lakes pilot advised him: "You need to get below 10,000. . . . You're too hypoxic to think straight; you just need to get below 10."

Rohrer advised the pilot to land in nearby Farmington, N.M., but the pilot countered, "I think I'm better off going to Colorado Springs. . . . I'm not ready to land the airplane."

Rohrer responded: "The problem with going to Colorado Springs is you gotta go all the way up to 17,000 feet and then we're in the hypoxia again."

Nearly 30 minutes after the pilot showed signs of incapacitation, Rohrer was telling him, "You're lining up perfect for the (Farmington) airport."

Several times as Rohrer guided the Cirrus down, the pilot simply said, "Thank you."

Rohrer then handed the pilot off to Farmington tower control, and the Cirrus landed safely.

Also in radio contact with Roh rer were the Great Lakes pilots, who had been following the Cirrus, offering advice and monitoring its descent.

"I appreciate all your help," Rohrer told the Great Lakes crew.

"Yeah, sure thing," the Great Lakes pilot answered.

In an e-mail sent to The Denver Post on Thursday, the Cirrus pilot said, "My wife and I are extremely grateful for the great efforts of the FAA controllers and the assistance of the other pilot."

He said the Cirrus is equipped with an airframe parachute and that "my wife had the directions for the deployment of the parachute on her lap and was preparing herself to deploy it if the situation had gotten worse."