This incident happened on Thursday the 20th of April this year. It involved Alaska Airlines flight AS-397, a daily early evening flight, departing from Orlando International Airport (KMCO) in Florida, USA. The flight’s destination is San Diego International (KSAN) in California. This domestic transcontinental flight typically takes between four-and-a-half and five hours.
On the day of the incident, the flight departed nearly forty minutes late, using runway 36R. Besides the delay, the departure appears to have been routine, with the crew settling into a cruise at FL340. But according to other passengers on board, a young passenger seemed to have… designs for the cockpit shortly after departure. We don’t know if this was before the aircraft reached cruise altitude.
Passenger Knocks On Cockpit Door
The passenger made a second dash for the cockpit when he saw that a pilot was using the restroom. On both of these occasions, a flight attendant intervened and sent the passenger toward the rear of the cabin. The third time would be different, as this time the passenger actually reached the cockpit door and started knocking on it.
Cabin crews don’t like passengers who do things that could interfere with the safety of the flight. Interfering with the cockpit door, as this passenger did, is a big no-no. So this time, the flight attendants pulled this person away from the door and requested assistance from other passengers. The trouble passenger reportedly had able-bodied company for the rest of the flight.
However, this cockpit door interference meant that now the flight crew wanted this passenger off the aircraft. So about one hour and fifteen minutes into the flight, the crew diverted to New Orleans Louis Armstrong International (KMSY). The Alaska flight made a safe landing on Runway 11 in New Orleans.
Who Was He?
This is where the story gets a bit [more] odd. We have previously seen other incidents where a passenger knocked on the cockpit door. But previous such cases tended to involve people in extreme distress, due to severe cases of flight anxiety.
This doesn’t appear to have been the case with this passenger. According to others on the aircraft, when the jet stopped at the terminal in New Orleans, he calmly disembarked while talking to someone on his phone. Others opined that this passenger with the cockpit obsession may have been on drugs. Earlier in the flight, he had been crouching and stretching his arms, mimicking a bird.
The aircraft spend about one hour and fifty minutes on the ground in New Orleans. It reached San Diego about three hours late. The Alaska Airlines aircraft involved is a Boeing 737-800, with tail number N508AS. Alaska has been the sole operator of the nearly fifteen-year-old jet.
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Sounds like this guy is struggling with mental health or drugs… Probably both. Hope he can get help with that after his chat with the police.