Incidents aboard airplanes seem to happen with curious frequency these days, and on Monday, shortly after Flight 1074 took off towards Denver, the United flight returned to D.C. after a passenger cockpit incident when a man refused to comply with crew instructions, the airline's spokesperson said. The man reportedly became violent trying to charge the cockpit, but other passengers restrained him in a scuffle, prompting the pilots to turn the plane around and head back to Dulles International Airport.
In a recording of the incident, one of the pilots was heard telling air traffic control:
We had a passenger becoming violent. No weapons involved. He's restrained by other passengers now, though. We don't know his mental health condition. Sounds like he's restrained for now. We just need to get on the ground.
The man met with local law enforcement at Dulles when the plane returned and was transported to the hospital for evaluation, the United spokesperson said. Though officials declined to explain the nature of the disturbance, one of the passengers on the flight told NBC News that the man was trying to reach the cockpit, and he later claimed that he had a bomb on his person.
The Washington Post reported that a supposed video of the scuffle emerged on Reddit later, showing the man, who appeared to be in his late 20s to early 30s, apologizing in tears after being subdued on the ground. One man was seen telling him,
Relax, relax. We're getting you home.
There were also reports of the man saying "jihad," though they could not be confirmed. A government official with direct knowledge of the incident said that the man ran toward the cockpit screaming "jihad, jihad," but investigations into his background have so far yielded no connection between him and any terrorist organizations. No weapons were found on the man.
Passenger Donna Tellam told ABC News that two male passengers pinned the frenetic man onto the ground, claiming that he said "jihad" several times.
One [passenger] held his feet and the other one kind of laid on top of him and then the flight attendants went and got some plastic restraints for his arms.
At one point when his head was down he said there were jihadists in the cargo hold and he did say jihad a couple times.
Officials revealed few other details about the fracas on board the Boeing 737 that carried 33 passengers and six crew members. In the recording, the pilot was heard telling air traffic controllers that it was a "Level 2" incident, which means physically abusive behavior occurred, but nothing life-threatening. It is the second lowest out of the four levels of security in the industry.
According to ABC News, the remaining passengers were flown out to Denver Tuesday morning.