News World US fighter jets scrambled over Hawaii after man attempts to get into plane cockpit

US fighter jets scrambled over Hawaii after man attempts to get into plane cockpit

American Airlines flight 31 as it was coming in to land at Honolulu International Airport. Source: Twitter/Hawaii News Now
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Two US fighter jets had to escort an American Airlines flight into Honolulu International Airport after a Turkish passenger tried to force his way into the cockpit, according to officials.

Neither the FBI, nor the military, nor American Airlines disclosed details of the incident, but local media reported a passenger had tried to force his way into the cockpit of Honolulu-bound Flight 31 from Los Angeles.

The man was subdued by an off-duty police officer, passengers and a flight attendant.

The flight landed safely late on Friday morning, officials said, with no injuries reported.

Witness Allison Forburger told CNN the man was moving toward the first-class section of the cabin with a blanket over his head when a flight attendant told him to stop.

As the man approached the drink cart at the rear of first class, a flight attendant told him to go back and return to his seat, according to Ms Forburger.

She said other passengers helped the flight attendant get the passenger back towards the back of the plane.

The man, who did not resist, left a black laptop he had been clutching to his chest on the drink cart, Ms Forburger told CNN.

Local TV news network Hawaii News Now reported that crew, an off-duty Los Angeles police officer and passengers were able to subdue the man, believed to be Turkish, using duct tape, pillows and blankets.

Federal authorities were preparing a criminal complaint to charge Turkish national Anil Uskanil, 25, with interference with a flight crew, Federal Bureau of Investigation special-agent-in charge Paul Delacourt said at a Honolulu news conference.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) police said separately that Mr Uskanil had been detained, questioned and released hours earlier after he was caught by security there going through a terminal concourse door leading out to the airfield.

Los Angeles airport police spokesman Rob Pedregon said Mr Uskanil was a ticketed American Airlines passenger with a boarding pass who had cleared security screening but claimed that he lost his way because he was tipsy from drinking.

Police let him go with a citation for misdemeanour trespassing, Mr Pedregon said. He was escorted to the street in front of the terminal when released, he added.

Mr Pedregon said it is not unusual for LAX passengers to mistakenly go through an unauthorised exit door at the terminal.

American Airlines said its Honolulu-bound flight, an Airbus A321, was carrying 181 passengers and six crew members.

One passenger who spoke to HawaiiNewsNow said a first-class flight attendant deserved much of the credit for preventing the suspect from reaching the cockpit.

“I would just never want to go against her. She was tasked with keeping him out of there, and she did a great job,” Lee Lorenzen told the news outlet.

There were 181 passengers and six crew members aboard the plane which departed LAX at 8.34am, American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody said.

It landed safely with federal agents waiting for it at the request of the flight crew, Ms Cody said.

Federal agents escort the man off the plane. Source: Twitter/Hawaii News Now

“When the Airbus A321 was in the air, the man allegedly tried to break through the cockpit door, throwing himself up against a beverage cart as he tried to force his way into the first class cabin.

Passengers said the man had a blanket or towel on his head, and didn’t say anything as he pushed forward,” HNN staff reported.

“It was all kind of surreal,” said Mr Lorenzen whose husband was among those who got up to try to stop the man.

“It took seconds,” Ms Lorenzen told HNN.

“He was pushing against the cart and a bunch of guys grabbed him. They found some duct tape. There were pillows and blankets. And they taped him to his chair.”

He added, “It was all over very quickly. They really deserve a medal for what they did.”

One passenger posted video of the man in handcuffs being escorted from the plane by FBI agents.

American Airlines said it did not immediately know the person’s nationality as that information is not required for domestic flights.

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was briefed on the incident, according to a statement from the department.

There are no other reports of disruptions, but the department said it is monitoring all flights Friday out of caution.

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