(Published: November 22, 2002)
A Boeing 747 en route from Minneapolis to Tokyo was diverted to Anchorage on Thursday and searched by bomb-sniffing dogs after an unruly passenger claimed to be a terrorist, federal officials said.
The plane remained in Anchorage overnight, said Eric Gonzalez, a special agent in the FBI's Anchorage office.
Matthew Leggett, 42, of Houston was arrested on felony charges of interfering with a flight crew, Gonzalez said. Leggett was taken into custody by airport police without incident and was taken to Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Gonzalez said.
"He was pretty calm as he left the plane," he said.
There were 333 passengers and 18 crew members aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 19, Gonzalez said. While in the air, passengers complained that Leggett was bothering them and a flight attendant tried to talk to him, Gonzalez said.
"He made some threatening gestures, snapping his fingers in the face of the flight attendant."
Because of the long distance of the flight, two teams of pilots were aboard. The relief crew was asked to talk to Leggett, Gonzalez said.
"Mr. Leggett had threatened to kill another passenger," Gonzalez said. "The pilots were able to calm him down, and a decision was made to divert the plane."
"Mr. Leggett was very agitated. He claimed to be a terrorist," Gonzalez said. "He said, 'You don't know who I am.' He was just acting bizarre."
Flight 19 landed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport around 4:08 p.m. Passengers got off, and bomb-sniffing dogs from Airport Police and Fire and Elmendorf Air Force Base were brought in to search the plane.
"This is just being done in an abundance of caution," Gonzalez said.
No one was injured, Gonzalez said. Alcohol and medication are believed to have been involved, Gonzalez said. Leggett had a bottle of alcohol on the plane that the flight crew didn't know about, he said.
Ilyushin96M From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 2609 posts, RR: 12
Reply 3, posted (12 years 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 2340 times:
This sort of incident raises a question about how people who are not in their right minds should be dealt with. Of course, Mr. Leggett is responsible for not combining alcohol with whatever medication he was on at the time, as well as whatever actions he took as a result of his irresponsibility. But if he wasn't mentally "there" when he started acting up, it seems it would be more likely he will get off on a technicality when this case goes to court.
I think it would be a good idea if there were "brigs" installed on larger aircraft for holding unruly passengers, rather than having to divert an entire planeload of people. Make it a tiny cell in the belly of the plane, accessible through a trapdoor and a ladder, or something like that. Stick the nutcase in there, then offload them when the plane lands. That, or something more severe. Harsh punishments would make people think twice about doing stuff like this.
Azjubilee From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 3986 posts, RR: 28
Reply 6, posted (12 years 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 2228 times:
It is already illegal for any passenger to consume alcohol onboard that was not served to them by the flight attendants. This is just another issue of some wacko getting on a plane and going crazy. We're never going to be able to rid the industry of freaks that do stuff like this. And We can't legislate air travel to the extent that would restrict civil liberties. To make rules about not being able to sell booze in an airport is going way too overboard. People just need to be aware of the consequences should they choose to use poor judgement.
Acidradio From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1874 posts, RR: 10
Reply 7, posted (12 years 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 2193 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW FORUM MODERATOR
Perhaps this man was mentally ill to begin with or he overestimated what the combination of alcohol, medications and altitude would do to him.
Commercial aviation is a hospitality-type of business. Take away basics like booze to get people through a long long flight and they might as well find other ways to travel. The airlines already have it bad enough, they don't need anything else to drive people away. We cannot make people any less stupid or change the will of people with legislation. Since drunk driving is illegal, nobody drives drunk, right? Yeah, sure. Since you can't smoke anywhere in most airports (which I think is an absurd restriction of liberties), that makes people not want to smoke, right? Um, no. Of anything, I would think that the elimination of smoking lounges in airports has driven up the number of air rage incidents. Brilliant thinking on the part of legislators who think that they can personally control the free will of people...