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March 21, 2023
An American Airlines flight headed from Jacksonville to Washington, DC, was unexpectedly diverted to Raleigh-Durham after an out of control passenger reportedly attempted to rush the cockpit mid-flight.
According to scanner audio from the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Police, the passenger, an adult female, attempted to gain access to the cockpit when she experienced what they described as a panic attack in the middle of the flight. The plane was diverted to RDU and the Federal Aviation Administration implemented a brief ground stop of all flights until the incident was resolved.
Officials say the woman did not gain access to the flight deck in spite of her attempt. She has been charged with airport obstruction, a misdemeanor offense. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Tweeted about the incident on Wednesday evening. “FAA leadership has briefed me on today’s flight diversion due to a Level 4 disruption on board,” he wrote. “Thankful to all who helped ensure its safe arrival. As always, safety is our main concern and our top priority.”
The FAA reported the number of unruly passenger incidents skyrocketed in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, going from 183 investigations initiated by the FAA in 2020 to 1099 investigations in 2021.
The Wednesday afternoon flight in question was canceled, and American Airlines says it helped all passengers on board get on to other flights bound for DC.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: LUKE MOCHERMAN
PHOTO CREDIT: WJLA