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Alaska Airlines passenger charged after mid-flight attempts to access cockpit

Simon Calder’s Travel

passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight faces federal charges of interference after they repeatedly attempted to open the cockpit door earlier this month.

The 19-year-old student pilot, Nathan Jones, was arrested on 3 March after disrupting flight 322 from San Diego to Washington Dulles International Airport three times during the cross-country journey.

Federal air marshal Thomas Pattinson filed a criminal complaint filed in a Virginia district court last week.

According to the affidavit, Jones got up from his 6E seat and attempted to reach the front of the plane to enter the cockpit several times during the five-hour flight.

When questioned as to why he needed to access the cockpit by cabin crew, the complaint states that Jones said he was “testing them”.

Fellow passengers, including off-duty law enforcement officers, “restrained Jones in flex cuffs and sat on either side of him” and a beverage cart barricaded the locked-down cockpit for the remainder of the flight.

Jones has been banned from flying with Alaska Airlines who said that the passenger “appeared confused” when trying to get into the cockpit “in a nonviolent manner.”

The flight landed safely at Dulles as scheduled and there were no injuries.

Robert Lee Jenkins, Jones’ lawyer, filed a motion on Wednesday that requested a mental competency hearing.

Jenkins told CBS News: “The allegations are completely inconsistent with the life he has lived. He is a young man without any history of criminal conduct or violence.

“At this stage, we are acutely concerned with his mental health and are working to address his needs. We have confidence that at the end it will be clear that Mr. Jones never intended to harm or threaten anyone.”

The motion included a letter from a therapist, Anne Zalewski, who described Jones as having symptoms “indicative of a serious mental illness” in jail and needing “a hospital level of care to stabilize his altered mental status.”

A detention hearing is set for 18 March. If convicted on the flight interference charge, Jones could face up to 20 years in prison.

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