Two American fighter jets escorted an American Airlines flight to Honolulu Friday after a passenger tried to break into the cockpit in midair.
An off-duty Honolulu police officer subdued a “Turkish” man after he tried to open the door to the cockpit on American Airlines Flight 31 bound for Honolulu, Hawaii, according to Hawaii News Now.
The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Ethan Barton, who was three rows behind first class, described a strange scene: A person wrapped in a blanket shuffled forward, passing within a foot of Barton, he told TheDCNF. At the entrance to first class, a flight attendant waved her arms and instructed the person that he was not allowed into the first-class cabin. She asked for help, and on her second appeal a passenger stood up to walk the blanketed person back, seemingly with little resistance.
Out of sight of TheDCNF’s Barton, however, the blanketed passenger allegedly tried to open a door. The pilot announced that because of a small loss in pressure, the plane would be forced to land in Honolulu at a low altitude. Police and FBI agents came aboard and took the passenger from the plane after landing.
Fellow passengers told TheDCNF’s Barton that the suspect had been pacing in a strange way before the flight left Los Angeles, and upon boarding the plane had sat in the front row of first class, before being told to move further back. One passenger described the suspect as “mental,” and an FBI agent told TheDCNF she thinks the suspect is “a Turkish person.”
The suspect at one point had been loitering near the plane’s restroom carrying a laptop, a government official told NBC news.
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) scrambled two F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard “in response to a reported disturbance” on the flight and escorted the plane to the airport, Dave Benham, spokesman for PACOM, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“The F-22s escorted the airliner to the airport in accordance with homeland defense procedures. Local law enforcement responded once the civilian airliner was on the ground,” Benham said.
The flight landed safely at 11:35 HST, American Airlines said in a statement. “Due to a disturbance during the flight, the crew requested that law enforcement meet the aircraft upon landing in Honolulu,” American Airlines said.
The suspect who approached the cockpit breached security protocol boarding the flight at Los Angeles International Airport, Hawaii News Now reported. LAX did not immediately provide TheDCNF with comment.
The FBI is handling the investigation and did not immediately return TheDCNF’s request for comment.
Ethan Barton contributed to this report.
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