1/13 1:37 PM: A man whose intoxicated behavior caused a San Francisco-bound flight to be diverted to Colorado Springs, Colo. last week appeared in a federal court in Denver this morning to face formal charges.
Muhammad Abu Tahir, 47, of Glen Allen, Virginia was charged with interfering with a flight crew, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado.
Tahir was a passenger on AirTran Airways Flight 39 on Friday, when it departed from Atlanta for San Francisco International Airport.
According to court documents, Tahir consumed five miniature bottles of wine during the flight, subsequently locking himself in the bathroom, where he removed his shirt and began shaving. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that he refused to obey crew members’ requests to return to his seat, and grabbed a flight attendant by the arms at one point.
Concerned by Tahir’s unruly behavior, the plane’s captain decided to divert the flight to Colorado Springs.
Crew members used beverage carts to both secure the cockpit and barricade Tahir, still locked in the aircraft lavatory, from the rest of the passengers during the landing, according to the affidavit filed in the case. Two military fighter jets escorted the plane to the ground shortly before 11 a.m. Pacific time.
If convicted, Tahir could face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. He is a Pakistani national and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, according to U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner.
During Tahir’s hearing this morning, a magistrate appointed a public defender to represent him. Tahir also requires the use of an Urdu translator, according to Dorschner.
He will return to court Friday at 10:30 a.m. for a preliminary hearing.
1/12 5:06 PM: A Virginia man whose unruly behavior caused the diversion of a San Francisco-bound AirTran flight to Colorado Springs last week faces criminal charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado.
Muhammad Abu Tahir, 47, will appear in federal court in Denver Wednesday to be formally charged with interfering with a flight crew, according to U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner.
On Friday, Tahir was a passenger aboard AirTran Airways Flight 39, which departed from Atlanta and was bound for San Francisco International Airport. According to the complaint filed with the court, Tahir drank “at least five airplane-sized bottles of wine,” becoming intoxicated and unruly.
When he rang his call bell and requested a fifth bottle of wine, a flight attendant initially denied his request, according to the affidavit. Tahir then allegedly became upset and argumentative, and was given an additional bottle of wine.
After quickly finishing the fifth bottle, Tahir went to the airplane’s lavatory, according to the document. He placed his shoes and socks outside the door, and later opened the door to reveal that he was shaving with no shirt on.
When flight attendants encouraged him to return to his seat, Tahir started yelling that he was being disrespected, according to the affidavit. At this point, the flight attendant notified the captain and requested a passenger to stand outside the door in case Tahir needed assistance.
Tahir allegedly continued yelling and refused to obey the flight crew or leave the bathroom. At one point he grabbed a flight attendant by the arms, according to the affidavit, “releasing his grasp on her after one of the assisting passengers interceded.”
Crew members brought a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to the rear of the aircraft to potentially subdue Tahir, and used two drink carts to contain Tahir and protect the cockpit.
Because of Tahir’s behavior, the plane’s captain decided to divert the flight to Colorado Springs. Two F-16 fighter jets from the North American Aerospace Defense Command Region escorted the plane to the ground, touching down shortly before 11 a.m. PST.
Tahir remained in the plane’s lavatory throughout the landing, and was removed from the aircraft by Colorado Springs police before the plane continued on to SFO, according to court documents. He was then turned over to the FBI for questioning.
According to FBI Special Agent Martin Daniell, Tahir said that flight attendants denied his request for food because he was sitting in coach class and he thought they were disrespecting him. He admitted drinking wine, becoming angry and raising his voice, although he said he did not touch the flight attendant.
If convicted, Tahir faces up to 20 years in prison and potential fines, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.