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Airplane annoyance leads to brouhaha in the skies over D.C.

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  • Airplane annoyance leads to brouhaha in the skies over D.C.

    Before things got out of hand, it was a typical annoyance that happens once a flight gets airborne: A passenger hit the recline button and sent his seat intimately close to the lap of the guy sitting behind him.

    What followed wasn’t typical at all: a smack to the head, peacemakers diving about the cabin to intervene and a pair of Air Force F-16 fighter jets scrambling into the night skies over Washington.

    It happened late Sunday, just after a United Airlines Boeing 767 bound for Ghana with 144 passengers took off from Dulles International Airport.

    Not long after the 10:44 p.m. departure for the overnight flight, the offending seat was lowered into the offended lap, and a fight ensued. A flight attendant and another passenger jumped in between, said sources familiar with the incident who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to provide details.

    The pilot has complete authority over the aircraft, a United spokesman said, and he decided to return to Dulles to sort things out rather than continue the transatlantic flight to Ghana when he was unsure of the scope of the problem

    Airline and Homeland Security Department officials said they had no other details on the incident.

    Since Sept. 11, 2001, pilots have learned to be wary. In recent years, disturbances have revealed terrorist attempts to ignite explosives hidden in shoes and underwear. Air Force fighter jets stand ready to respond to situations such as this one, in which passengers, who might be terrorists, cause trouble in flight.

    A 767 can take off with 16,700 gallons of fuel, and for the more-than-5,000-mile flight to Accra, Ghana, it probably would have needed all of it. The full load of fuel weighs more than 57 tons, and, although a 767 can get that weight airborne, it can’t land with it.

    As the plane turned back to Dulles, an air traffic controller directed the United pilot to fly around for about 25 minutes, shadowed by the fighter jets, to burn off an undetermined amount of fuel.

    Audio transmissions indicate that the two Air Force fighters scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base at 11:03 p.m, just as the plane reentered Washington airspace.

    Five minutes later, the fighter escorts took up position 1,000 feet above the jetliner as it headed toward Dulles, sources said.

    At 11:10 p.m., the controller asked about the passenger who slapped his neighbor, and a voice from the cockpit replied: “The passenger is not secured at this time; the passenger has settled down, though, but an assault has taken place, but at this time he is not secured.”

    Members of the Dulles police force met the flight at the gate, said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Officers determined that the incident didn’t warrant pressing charges, Yingling said.

    It was probably expensive, however.

    In addition to the fuel cost — jet fuel averaged $3.03 a gallon last month — the flight was delayed until Monday. Given that no arrests were made, there was no official record of the incident, and the identities of the men involved were not known. It was unclear whether they were on the flight when it left Monday morning or, if so, where they sat, United spokesman Mike Trevino said.
    Life is what you make of it

  • #2
    Just as well. Who in the Hell wants to go to Ghana anyway?
    sigpic
    Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun.
    And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son.

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    • #3
      All seats recline to a specific position...nothing more. So the guy in the back should have sucked it in or next time pay for first class or business class.

      An assault is an assault and at 35K feet it is a Federal Offense (Code of Federal Regulations). All of the other passengers were delayed due to both parties behavior. The cost was huge...dumping fuel, rescheduling passengers, putting them up for the evening..not to mention the cost for the military intervention.

      These antics will continue until folks get more than a slap on the wrist. Both should have been put on the airlines no fly list and find another way to Ghana. I would be a bit angry if I was a passenger and the two were allowed on the rescheduled flight.
      This profession is not for people looking for positive reinforcement from the public. Very often it can be a thankless job and you can't desire accolades, because those are not usually forthcoming. Just do your job to the best of your ability and live with the decisions you've made.

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      • #4
        Probably just a simple battery when all is said and done and the victim did not want to press charges. No crime.
        Budda sat in front of a wall and when he stood up he was enlightened. I sat in front of a wall and when I stood up the wall was enlightened.


        We forge our skills in the fire of our will.

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        • #5
          Looks like they picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue.
          This Space For Rent

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          • #6
            $9,000 an hour for each fighter jet in the air is the going rate.

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            • #7
              The fighter pilots have to log flying hours anyway, so practice flight or this flight same money spent.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by David Hineline View Post
                The fighter pilots have to log flying hours anyway, so practice flight or this flight same money spent.
                Well, it was the end of the month....I can't remember if they track monthly or not....but if so, they may have gone over. They can make that up if next month is a calm one, but if they keep going over hours, it matters. In other words, it depends.

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                • #9
                  The fighter pilots definitely got good practice out of this since it was a real escort mission and not a drill.
                  Life is what you make of it

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                  • #10
                    The two idiots should split the fuel bill that United Airlines had to waste, and not be allowed to be on the next rescheduled flight.

                    I guess there was no air marshal on board?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MD11pilot View Post
                      .....
                      The full load of fuel weighs more than 57 tons, and, although a 767 can get that weight airborne, it can’t land with it.
                      .....
                      Why can't this aircraft land with a "full load"?
                      As far as I know, this is not an "overloaded" condition, so it should be within design limits.
                      Living it one day at a time.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BAinCJ View Post
                        Why can't this aircraft land with a "full load"?
                        As far as I know, this is not an "overloaded" condition, so it should be within design limits.
                        An aircraft can be within proper weight tolerances for takeoff but for landing it can be overweight since the landing gear takes a lot of stress during touchdown plus stopping distance can be an issue.
                        Life is what you make of it

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