Pilot restrained after mid-flight al-Qaeda rant

2012-03-28 14:54

Las Vegas – A pilot, who had to be restrained after a mid-flight outburst about al-Qaeda and a bomb threat, is now in FBI custody.

“That was a tough situation at altitude. The customers, the crew, just did a great job,” said JetBlue airline chief executive and president Dave Barger, speaking to NBC television’s “Today Show” programme.

“That was a true team effort at 10 000 kilometres yesterday.”

He made his remarks one day after a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas, Nevada was diverted to Amarillo, Texas, for an emergency landing after the pilot suddenly began screaming about terror threats outside the cockpit.

Barger told NBC that the harrowing incident was under investigation by the airline and by US aviation officials.

“Obviously the captain is now in the hands of medical care. Obviously under the custody of the FBI,” Barger said, adding that there was no hint of medical or psychological problems or any evidence that he would pose a flight risk.

Reports said the pilot, who was also the captain on the flight, went to a restroom just outside the cockpit and when he emerged began shouting “Iraq, al-Qaeda, terrorism, we’re all going down!”

Footage filmed with a cellphone camera and broadcast on US television showed chaos at the front of the plane, as male passengers scrambled to help restrain the pilot, who could be heard shouting hysterically.

Airline officials said an off-duty pilot, who had been travelling on the flight as a passenger, entered the cockpit before landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the restrained pilot, who was transported to a local medical facility in Amarillo strapped to a stretcher.

“I’ve known the captain personally for a long period of time. There’s been no indication of this at all in the past,” Barger said, calling the pilot “a “consummate professional”.

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