The air traveller’s worst nightmare actually took place over the skies of Sudan yesterday when a madman entered the cockpit of a British Airways Boeing 747, flying from London to Nairobi, Kenya. He forced his way into the cockpit and wrested the controls from the pilot. In the struggle, the auto-pilot was turned off and the aircraft made a series of vertical nose-dives. The captain instructed his co-pilot to regain control of the plane and fought the intruder, a 27-year-old Kenyan, with the help of the crew and passengers in the front two rows of seats in the first class compartment. The first the 398 passengers on board knew about what was happening was around 05.00h, when the plane started jumping so violently that the baggage fell out of the overhead lockers. Grown men were seen screaming like children as five people were injured, hitting their heads on the ceiling of the aircraft, such was the violence of the dive. Finally the pilot emerged from the cockpit and told the passengers what had happened. He said that if the struggle inside the cockpit had lasted just five more seconds, it would have been impossible to regain control of the plane. After the 747 landed at Nairobi airport two hours later, the intruder was taken to a psychiatric hospital for tests and the pilot stated modestly that “I just did my job. I got the intruder away from my controls, as I was supposed to do and I instructed my co-pilot to regain control of the aircraft, as I was supposed to do – something which he did extremely well”. British Airways may have to review its security systems after this. There is a habit of allowing children and one parent to have a “cockpit landing” and unfortunately this practice may have to be discontinued. One conclusion which can be drawn from this is that in future if passengers and crew work together in a determined fashion, intruders and hijackers may think twice before performing such actions.
John Ashtead Pravda.Ru London