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Federal Charges for Student Pilot After Attempted Alaska Air Cockpit Entry

Student Pilot will be charged with Interference with a Flight Crew

In a breach of aviation security, a 19-year-old student pilot is now facing federal charges after multiple attempts to enter the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight. The incident, which took place on March 3rd during Flight 322 from SAN to IAD.

Nathan Jones, the accused, left his seat several times during the flight, making three separate efforts to access the cockpit door. His actions prompted an immediate response from the flight crew, who, with the assistance of off-duty law enforcement officers, restrained Jones using flex cuffs. To further secure the cockpit, flight attendants used a beverage cart to barricade the entry.
According to federal charging document filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia, Federal Air Marshal Thomas Pattinson stated: "Jones was a passenger on board [Flight 322], assigned to seat 6E. During [the] flight, Jones got out of his seat multiple times and made three separate attempts to go to the front of the plane and open the aircraft’s cockpit door before flight attendants requested the assistance of off-duty law enforcement officers, who restrained Jones in flex cuffs and sat on either side of him for the remainder of the flight. When flight attendants asked Jones why he tried to access the cockpit, Jones replied that he ‘was testing them’."

Upon landing, Jones consented to a search, which led to the discovery of several notebooks containing detailed instructions on aircraft operation, including takeoff, mid-flight, and landing procedures, as well as a student pilot license in his wallet. These findings have led to Jones being charged with interference with a flight crew, a serious offense that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The FAA is currently investigating the incident to understand Jones' motives and to determine whether there were any lapses in security that could be addressed to prevent similar incidents. Since 2001, commercial air carrier aircraft have been equipped with hardened flight deck doors, often also including a secondary barrier, to prevent unauthorized entry.

FMI: www.faa.gov


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