A man was arrested in Honduras on Tuesday after entering the cockpit of an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 during the boarding process. The unidentified male damaged some cockpit controls and attempted to jump out a cockpit window before crew members intervened and police arrested him.
Passenger makes a break for the cockpit
The American Airlines Boeing 737 set to operate AA488 between Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Miami, Florida, was boarding its 121 passengers when the incident occurred.
According to ABC News, the man ran down the jetway, entered the cockpit, damaged some controls, and tried to jump out a window when pilots attempted to stop him. Footage posted on Twitter shows the man half out the window.
AA488 is the 14:58 departure, one of American’s three daily flights between San Pedro Sula and Miami. The flight normally reaches Miami two and a half hours later. As a result of the damage done to the operating aircraft by the cockpit intruder, the plane was grounded in Honduras, and American Airlines sent a replacement aircraft down to collect the passengers.
No one was injured during the incident, and American Airlines praised how their crew handled the situation. In a statement, the airline said:
“We applaud our outstanding crew members for their professionalism in handling a difficult situation.”
— Ariel Sierra (@ArielSierra) January 12, 2022
Air rage incident or mental health issue?
Multiple media outlets are reporting this as a case of air rage. However, it is unclear whether it is an air rage incident or a mental health issue. While air rage is an increasing problem for airlines, successful attempts to enter aircraft cockpits are rare.
In June last year, a passenger on a United Express flight departing from Los Angeles and bound for Salt Lake City left his seat while the plane was moving, pounded on the cockpit door, managed to open the service door, and jumped from the aircraft. He was promptly arrested and taken off for medical treatment.
In July, a man in St Petersburg, Florida, was on the run from police when he drove through the security gate at the US Coast Guard Station at St Petersburg Airport. He then got into a hangar, boarded a C-130, and managed to get into the cockpit before police arrested him.
In September, a passenger on a JetBlue flight from Boston to San Juan was dissatisfied because he couldn’t make an inflight phone call and subsequently charged the cockpit, shouting in Spanish and Arabic to be shot.
After seriously assaulting a flight attendant, half a dozen crew members were able to subdue the man with flex cuffs, seat-belt extenders, and other improvised items before the flight landed in San Juan, and police took the man into custody,
Most incidents are attempts to enter cockpits
Except for the parked and empty C-130 incident in St Petersburg, these incidents are best characterized as attempts to enter the cockpit – a less serious incident than actually entering the cockpit. That the man in Honduras on Tuesday was able to do so makes it a relatively unusual incident.
At the time of writing, a replacement aircraft is operating AA488 and is en route to Miami. The flight left eight hours behind schedule. The arrested man was taken into police custody.