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DC-bound flight makes emergency landing after ‘erratic’ passenger tries storming cockpit

An American Airlines plane. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 14, 2022

An American Airlines flight bound for Washington, D.C., on Sunday made an emergency landing due to an “erratic” passenger who attempted to storm the cockpit.

According to The New York Times, the flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., was diverted to Kansas City, Mo., after the unruly passenger tried to open an exit door and break into the cockpit.

Crew members and other passengers subdued the passenger, and he was taken into police custody after the flight landed at Kansas City International Airport.

“Earlier today, an American Airlines flight originating from Los Angeles Airport (LAX) en route to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) was diverted to Kansas City International Airport (MCI). The flight was diverted due to an unruly passenger interfering with the flight crew. The individual has been taken into custody. As this is an ongoing matter, the FBI is unable to comment further,” Special Agent in Charge Charles Dayoub said in a statement.

Among the passengers who stepped in to help during the chaotic incident was Air Force reservist Carlos Rojas, 33, who said he was dozing off when the plane’s lights suddenly came on. Rojas said he noticed a struggle between flight attendants and a passenger near the front of the plane.

Rojas said the man making a scene appeared distraught and paranoid.

“When I went up, it looked like the guy was trying to open the exterior door of the plane to the outside,” said Rojas. “So we were kind of keeping him from doing that and just trying to subdue him and make sure that he was taken down and everybody was OK.”

Another passenger, Mouaz Moustafa, said the plane started descending into Kansas City without warning when the man attempted to enter the cockpit. Moustafa said the unruly passenger also tried to exit the plane through the main door before he was held on the ground by several passengers.

“A flight attendant ran to the back of the plane and got the coffee pot and continues to bash the guy on the head,” Moustafa recalled in an interview on the tarmac. He added that the man was “bleeding profusely.”

“I honestly thought today I might die,” he said.

Rojas said it took three members of the flight crew and three passengers to restrain the passenger. The man eventually had his hands and ankles bound with tape and zip ties, Rojas said, adding that that passenger stayed on the floor for roughly 15 minutes before authorities arrested him after the plane landed in Kansas City.

After a three-hour delay, the American Airlines flight was back in the air headed to Washington.