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US plane makes emergency landing after pilot scare

By Seema Hakhu Kachru
Last updated on: March 28, 2012 14:56 IST
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A Las Vegas bound flight of a United States airliner made an emergency landing in Texas when the plane's pilot gave a mid-air scare to passengers about a possible attack by Al Qaeda and had to be restrained.

"They're going to take us down!" the captain of the plane screamed and rambled about Al Qaeda as passengers pinned him to the floor on Tuesday while another pilot took charge to make an emergency landing, JetBlue Airways said in a statement.

An off-duty airline captain, who was a passenger on the flight, entered the cockpit, locked the door and helped the aircraft land in Amarillo, Texas.

The original pilot on flight 191 from New York's John F Kennedy airport had been taken to hospital after suffering a "medical situation" on board, it said.

Passengers were quoted by local media as saying that the captain seemed disoriented, jittery and constantly sipped water when he first marched through the cabin. He then began to rant about threats linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and a bomb following which crew members tried to calm him down.

Gabriel Schonzeit, who was sitting in the third row, told the local media: "He started screaming about Al Qaeda and possibly a bomb on the plane and Iraq and Iran and about how we were all going down."

"A group of us just jumped up instinctually and grabbed him and put him to the ground. Clearly he had an emotional or mental type of breakdown," passenger Tony Antolino said after arriving in Las Vegas after the incident.

Antolino, a security executive, said he and three others pinned down the captain as he ran for the cockpit door and sat on him for about 20 minutes until the plane landed at Rick Husband Amarillo international airport at 10am local time.

The flight had left New York around 7am and was in the air for three-and-a-half hours before landing in Texas.

The passengers completed their journey to Las Vegas several hours later on another flight.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was co-ordinating an investigation with the police, the FAA and the Transportation Safety Administration, FBI spokeswoman Lydia Maese in Dallas said.

She declined to comment on arrests.

Earlier this month, an American Airlines flight attendant took over the public address system on a flight bound for Chicago and spoke for 15 minutes about 9/11 and the safety of their plane.

"I'm not responsible for this plane crashing," she was quoted by passengers as saying.

Check out the video here (External link)

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Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston
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