The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has opened an investigation after an unruly passenger allegedly attempted to break into the cockpit of a Washington DC bound plane on Wednesday afternoon.
Tiffany Michelle Miles, 36, was taken into custody after American Airlines flight AA3444 from Jacksonville, Florida, was diverted to Raleigh-Durham International Airport following reports of a disruptive passenger onboard the plane.
Radio communications between the flight deck and air traffic controllers confirmed that the pilots had reported a so-called ‘Level 4’ security threat, code for an attempted or actual breach of the cockpit.
A Level 4 threat is considered the most severe security situation, usually resulting in an immediate diversion.
While law enforcement was dealing with the incident, the FAA issued a temporary ground stop at RDU between 3 pm and 4:20 pm on Wednesday. The agency later said it had opened an investigation into the incident.
Eyewitnesses claim Miles had become upset because she had not been served a drink on the one-and-a-half-hour flight between Florida and Washington DC. Flight attendants apparently attempted to de-escalate the situation before she attacked the flight deck.
The FAA highlighted that it has recently progressed legislation for secondary flight deck barriers to further protect the cockpit from attack. Once made law, however, the rule will only apply to newly built aircraft, and airlines will not be required to retrofit secondary barriers to older jets like the seven-year-old aircraft involved in Wednesday’s incident.
A secondary flight deck barrier is designed to protect the security of the cockpit when the primary barrier has to be opened inflight – such as when a pilot needs to use the lavatory.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.