Fighters escort American Airlines Flight 31 after attempted cockpit breach
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Washington/Atlanta/Chicago: Fighter jets escorted an American Airlines plane to Honolulu after a passenger attempted to breach the hardened cockpit door.
Based on initial reports, the man placed a laptop by the entrance and tried to get through the reinforced barrier required on airliners following the 11 September 2001 attacks, said a person familiar with the matter. The Department of Homeland Security said it was prepared to help investigate the incident on Flight 31 from Los Angeles.
The incident added to fears about flight safety as the Trump administration has warned of a heightened risk that terrorists could use laptops to conceal explosives. Homeland Security is considering banning electronic devices larger than mobile phones from airline cabins on flights from Europe to the US. A prohibition was adopted in March for flights from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports.
American’s Airbus SE A321 jet landed safely at 11:35 am local time, said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the carrier. Video posted to social media showed officers, including one with an FBI shirt, taking a handcuffed man off the plane.
During the flight, the pilots made a gradual descent from cruise altitude to lower levels out of precaution to limit the potential damage in the event there was an explosion, according to the official. While the severity of the threat was still unclear, US Pacific Command scrambled two F-22 fighter jets to escort the airliner.
The passenger drew the attention of authorities at Los Angeles International Airport before the flight left because he appeared to be intoxicated, the official said. He was eventually allowed to board the flight, according to the official.
Airport police in Los Angeles said a 25-year-old man named Anil Uskanil went through a door from the Terminal 5 concourse that led to the airfield ramp. He was ticketed on American Airlines, the police said in a statement, without saying whether he was on Flight 31.
“Airport police investigated and determined Uskanil had been drinking but did not meet the criteria for drunk in public,” according to the statement. “Uskanil was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing, cited, given a pending court date and released from custody. “
Police said officers responded to the call about Uskanil at about 2:45 am in Los Angeles before being released. Flight 31 left the airport at 8:43 am, according to Flightaware.com
Homeland Security secretary John Kelly has been briefed on the incident, the agency said in a statement. There are no other reports of flight disruptions, it said, without confirming details of what happened.
“The individual who disrupted the flight has been detained,” the department said. “DHS is prepared to assist other federal and local law enforcement agencies as they investigate the incident.” Bloomberg