F-15ís Escort AirTran Airways Flight 39





F-15ís Escort AirTran Airways Flight 39

By Mike Mitchell (Update)
F-15ís Escort AirTran Airways Flight 39  

January 9, 2010 - On Friday AirTran Airways Flight 39, a Boeing 737-700 aircraft carrying 132 passengers and 5 crew members pushed back from the gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at 9:48 a.m. EST and departed at 10:36 a.m. EST headed to San Francisco International Airport with a scheduled arrival time of 12:40 p.m. PST. During the flight, a male passenger, Muhammad Abu Tahir allegedly intoxicated, became disruptive and irate with a flight attendant.

The passenger refused to follow flight crew instructions to take his seat and then proceeded to lock himself in the aft lavatory. The male passenger was traveling from Richmond, Virginia, to San Francisco, Calif., with a connection in Atlanta, Ga.


AirTran Airways Flight 39 was traveling from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to San Francisco International Airport. During the flight, Muhammad Abu Tahir became upset and disruptive after flight attendants refused to serve him additional alcoholic drinks. During the course of the flight, Tahir consumed five airplane-size bottles of wine. After being served the fifth bottle the flight crew refused to serve him any additional alcohol. Tahir then locked himself in the aircraft lavatory. 

After a few minutes, Tahir opened the door of the lavatory and placed his shoes and socks outside the door. He then closed the lavatory door again. A short time later the defendant again opened the lavatory door, revealing that he was shaving with no shirt on. Tahir refused to leave the lavatory and started yelling at the flight attendant that he was being disrespected. 

The flight attendant notified the Captain and Senior Flight Attendant of Tahir's behavior. The Captain then asked the flight crew to find an able-bodied person to assist the flight attendants. One of the passengers was then asked to stand outside the lavatory door. Tahir continued to yell and refused to obey the flight crew. At one point, while attempting to calm Tahir down, he grabbed the arms and hands of the Senior Flight Attendant. Tahir released his grasp on her after one of the assisting passengers interceded. 

Based on Tahir's belligerent and aggressive behavior and refusals to comply with the instructions of the flight staff, a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher was brought to the rear of the aircraft should Tahir's behavior escalate. Also, flight attendants positioned beverage carts in the rear and in the front of the aircraft to prevent Tahir from moving towards the cockpit. Because of Tahir's actions and behavior, the Captain diverted the AirTrans Airways flight to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The aircraft landed while Tahir remained inside the lavatory. Once on the ground, Tahir was arrested by Colorado Springs Police Department officers. He was then questioned and arrested by the FBI.

The captain requested the local law enforcement officials meet the aircraft on arrival in Colorado Springs, Colo. The plane, escorted by two F-16 fighters dispatched under the direction of Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region (NORAD), landed safely in Colorado Springs, Colo., at 11:55 a.m. MST and taxied to a remote location of the airport where law enforcement officials detained the individual in question.

The aircraft was then repositioned to a gate where it was searched by canine teams. The FBI is on the scene and is overseeing the law enforcement response. AirTran Airways is cooperating fully with the law enforcement officials. Flight 39 has been cleared for departure to San Francisco and will continue the flight.

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