Man Arrested After Entering Cockpit, Damaging Plane: Airline

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
January 12, 2022Updated: January 12, 2022

A man was arrested on an American Airlines plane Tuesday after entering the cockpit, according to the airline.

The flight was still boarding when the man “entered the open flight deck and caused damage to the aircraft,” an American Airlines spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email.

A video posted on social media appeared to show the man sticking his head out of the cockpit of the plane, which still had the boarding bridge attached, before being pulled inside.

The flight was preparing to depart San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and fly to Miami, Florida.

“Crew members intervened and the individual was ultimately apprehended by local law enforcement. A replacement aircraft was sent to Honduras and the flight departed at approximately 11:00 p.m. local time yesterday. We applaud our outstanding crew members for their professionalism in handling a difficult situation,” the spokesperson added.

The flight took off hours behind schedule, landing in Miami in the early hours of Wednesday, well past the original 6:15 p.m. arrival time.

It’s unclear why the man entered the cockpit.

American Airlines did not answer questions seeking more details on the incident, including whether it will press charges or ban the passenger.

Honduras Security Secretary spokesman Edgardo Barahona said Wednesday that the man “was freed because the airline did not press charges,” according to the Associated Press.

“The aggression toward the pilot and the crew of the airline was not serious,” he said.

The man is suspected of being on drugs.

Airlines have been dealing with a higher number of such situations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been sparked by disagreements over masking policies, which some workers have been aggressively enforcing.

A subset of the incidents have involved passengers trying to enter the cockpit or causing other serious disturbances.

Over the summer, Delta Air Lines staffers and passengers subdued a man who tried breaking into the cockpit while a flight was going to Tennessee from California.

A few months later, a JetBlue passenger tried rushing the cockpit midair and shouting in Spanish that he should be shot was corralled by workers, one of whom he choked, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent.

About half a dozen workers successfully restrained the passenger, using seat belts and other makeshift restraints.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said late last year that it had seen a “disturbing increase” in incidents of airline passengers disrupting flights with threatening or violent behavior and sent 37 of the most egregious cases to the FBI for criminal review.

The agency can issue civil fines but cannot bring criminal charges.

“Let this serve both as a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not just fines from the FAA but federal criminal prosecution as well,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said at the time.

Bill Pan contributed to this report.

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