A call from air traffic control was made regarding an American Airlines pilot speaking to ground staff as a passenger attempted to enter the cockpit and was later subdued by a crew member using a coffee maker.
Sunday’s flight from Los Angeles, California to Washington, DC was forced to land in Kansas City.
“He’s trying to get into the cockpit,” the pilot said when called. “We have four passengers now trying to contain this gentleman.”
As the plane descended, the crew was helped to restrain the man by passengers.
“We have two armed people on board securing it at the moment,” the pilot told air traffic control.
“If we could get vectors that would be great,” the pilot said, describing the man as a “white guy.”
“The flight landed safely at MCI at 2:28 p.m. local time and law enforcement was asked to meet the arriving flight,” the airline said in a statement.
“We are grateful to our crew members, who are constantly dedicated to the safety and care of our customers and who handled the circumstances with the utmost skill and professionalism,” the airline added.
The Kansas City FBI confirmed that the man had been arrested. Juan Remberto Rivas, 50, was charged with assault, intimidation of a flight attendant and interference with the flight attendant’s duties, according to court documents.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said Monday that Rivas had been arrested, remains in custody and is awaiting a hearing that has yet to be set.
He allegedly attempted to grab hold of the exit door handles, placing one foot on the plane’s door and pulling hard on the handle with one hand, then with both hands, according to the FBI affidavit.
In order to arrest him, a flight attendant grabbed a coffee maker and punched Mr. Rivas twice on the head as several other passengers came forward to help him, prosecutors said.
Among the passengers was a policeman, who led the unruly passenger away from the gate.
“One passenger punched Rivas in the jaw and another grabbed his neck and pulled him to the ground. Passengers and flight attendants restrained Rivas until they could secure his hands and feet with zip ties and duct tape,” the statement read.
Witnesses said Mr Rivas was calm at the start of the trip, but the incident began after about two and a half hours into the flight, according to the affidavit.
Mr Rivas allegedly got on the front of the plane and asked for the police, a flight attendant quoted in the affidavit said.
He said he wanted to upgrade to first class because he didn’t trust anyone and there were “people looking for me”, the witness added.
He was told by the stewardess that while he couldn’t be moved to first class, he could be moved further down the plane.
Shortly after, however, Mr. Rivas returned to the front of the plane and complained that the plane was not moving or flying.
When told to look outside to confirm the plane was airborne, he grabbed a bottle, some cooking utensils and a “plastic silverware” knife from the kitchen counter.
He removed the towel wrapped around her and “placed the plastic silverware in his shirt sleeve and held it like a rod,” the stewardess said. “He then grabbed a small bottle of champagne by the neck of the bottle and attempted to smash the bottle on the counter.”
He then used his left hand to lift the right exit door handle before being restrained by passengers and crew.
Another flight attendant said in the affidavit that Mr Rivas said people were “trying to hurt him and followed him on the plane”.
He added that he heard the individuals harming his family on the phone before attempting to open the exit door.
The attendants told investigators that Mr. Rivas was not intoxicated. He received medical treatment for lacerations to the head he suffered when he was overpowered during the flight.
Since the start of last year, the Federal Aviation Administration has received 6,375 reports of passenger misconduct.
The agency’s zero-tolerance policy can result in fines of up to $52,500 and a maximum of 20 years in prison.