Student Pilot Arrested After Attempt to Breach Cockpit on Alaska Airlines Flight

On March 3rd, 2024, an alarming incident occurred aboard an Alaska Airlines flight AS310, operated by Boeing 737 MAX 9 (Reg. N964AK) traveling from California to Virginia. A student pilot, identified as Nathan Jones, made multiple attempts to break into the cockpit of the aircraft. Jones, who was seated in seat 6E, left his seat multiple times during the flight. He made three separate attempts to open the cockpit door, according to an affidavit filed by Federal Air Marshal Thomas G. Pattinson. When questioned by flight attendants about his actions, Jones stated that he was "testing them".


In response to this serious breach of security, flight attendants requested the assistance of off-duty law enforcement officers who were on board. Jones was restrained with flex cuffs and monitored by these officers for the remainder of the flight. To further secure the cockpit, a beverage cart was placed at the cockpit door, and one of the flight attendants stood guard. Upon landing at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Jones consented to a search of his belongings. Investigators found multiple notebooks containing detailed writings on how to operate an aircraft, including take-off, in-air, and landing techniques. His wallet also contained a student pilot's license.

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Jones was subsequently arrested and charged with interference with flight crew members, a serious offense that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. His lawyer, Robert J. Jenkins, expressed shock at the charges and stated that the allegations were inconsistent with Jones' character. He also expressed concern for Jones' mental health.

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This incident is part of a concerning trend of unruly passenger incidents. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported 320 such incidents in 2024, including 145 reports in January and another 175 reports in February. The incident is currently under investigation by the FAA. Meanwhile, Jones remains in custody and is scheduled for a detention hearing on March 18.

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