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Student pilot allegedly tried to enter cockpit of Alaska Airlines flight multiple times

An Alaska Airlines airplane takes off at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, CA, Dec. 5, 2023. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — A 19-year-old student pilot is facing a federal charge over allegedly attempting to enter the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight multiple times, according to court documents.


The crew “reported a passenger disturbance” during a flight from San Diego International Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on March 3, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The passenger, Nathan 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,” according to an affidavit from a federal air marshal filed in support of the criminal complaint.

Flight attendants ultimately requested the help 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,” the affidavit stated. Flight attendants also blocked the cockpit with the beverage cart, the affidavit stated.

When flight attendants asked Jones why he tried to access the cockpit, he allegedly said he was “testing them,” according to the affidavit.

Alaska Airlines Flight 322 landed safely at Dulles, according to the FAA, which is investigating the incident.

While searching Jones’ belongings upon landing, federal agents found a student pilot’s license and “multiple notebooks with writings describing how to operate an aircraft, including take-off, in-air, and landing techniques,” according to the affidavit. He was arrested and charged with interference with a flight crew.

Jones is in custody in Alexandria County pending a detention hearing on March 18, court records show.

His attorney, Robert Jenkins, filed a motion on Wednesday asking that the court order a competency evaluation for Jones. The motion included a letter from an Alexandria County therapist describing him as having “symptoms indicative of a serious mental illness” and being on “suicide protocols.”

Jenkins told ABC News in a statement on Wednesday that Jones does not have any history of criminal conduct or violence.

“The charges against Mr. Jones are shocking to his mother and family,” Jenkins said. “The allegations are completely inconsistent with the life he has lived.”

“At this stage we are acutely concerned with his mental health and are working to address his needs,” the statement continued. “We have confidence that at the end it will be clear that Mr. Jones never intended to harm or threaten anyone.”

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