Fighter jets scrambled as scuffle erupts on Chicago-bound plane Sonic boom rattles Chicago suburbs
By Mario Fox Associated Press Published October 8, 2001, 6:29 PM CDT
Two Air Force fighter planes escorted an American Airlines jetliner to OHare International Airport Monday after a passenger tried to enter the planes cockpit, officials said.
A 30-year-old man traveling with his father - who later described his son as having a history of mental illness - was subdued aboard Flight 1238 from Los Angeles to Chicago after breaking into the cockpit, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. The jetliner landed without incident at OHare International Airport at 3:16 p.m., officials said.
The man was subdued by two pilots and several passengers, Rice said. During the struggle, the pilot made a distress call and two F16 fighters intercepted the jetliner and escorted the plane to Chicago, Rice said.
"This man had some sort of mental problem. He is on medication and under a doctors treatment," Rice said. "This is not a terrorist incident and was not related in any way to the attacks on Sept. 11."
Rice said the mans father alerted the flight crew shortly before the plane left Los Angeles that his son was acting strangely and suffered from some sort of illness.
Passengers said they were shaken.
"For a split second, I thought we were going to die," one passenger told Chicagos WLS-TV. "I heard a screaming and the plane jolting. I realized a guy was racing by me at full speed and ... 10 passengers were racing after him and screaming. The cockpit door comes flying open and the plane shudders."
He said passengers wrapped the man in a blanket.
"He kept screaming 'Save the Tower,'" an apparent reference to the Sears Tower, the passenger said.
The Boeing 767 was carrying a crew of nine and 153 passengers, an American spokeswoman said.
No injuries were reported, Chicago Aviation Department spokeswoman Monique Bond said. She said the man was in FBI custody.
Residents in some of Chicagos northwest suburbs called police after the fighter jets apparently created a sonic boom when they flew overhead.
"They wanted to know what it was. One of our officers had spotted in it and was able to calm the people down," Schaumburg police Sgt. Jeff Theriault said.
"To me, it sounded like a loud truck passing by." Copyright © 2001, Chicago Tribune