Skip to comments.Eyewitness account on United Flight 735
Posted on 04/23/2006 1:10:11 AM PDT by FreedomCalls
I was in 3C on Flight 735 and saw everything that happend....and it was A LOT scarier to all of us in first than the news is reporting.
Situation started after meal was served and "Chronicles of Narnia had been on for about an hour (never will watch that movie without thinking about this flight). An hispanic man walked up to first, kind of shuffling with a hanging head and a slack expression. I looked up when he walked by, thought he looked weird but not weird enough to worry about. I went back to the movie and the next thing I know I hear our flight attendant yelling, "No sir, Stop that Sir!" and then "get away from there"! The passenger in 2D stated he could see that the guy had indeed been able to move the handle on the main exit door all the way over and that he could see the inner door lifting and moving a bit. The flight attendant rushed forward to push back on the door trying to close it. It was at that moment that some pretty cool guys in 1B, 1C stood up grabbed the guy and had him in want I think was considered a choke hold. 1D, another big guy (all 3 men who helped to subdue the man were a good size fortunately) was also helping to hold the guy down.
The guy seemed to faint and slumped to the ground...but only for a moment. He then started trying to get up and apparently he was quite strong because although there were two men holding him down, it appeared that he was going to be able to get up and wanted to move back toward the door to open it. He was screaming, "I want to die, "I have a camera in my stomach", "Kill Me "and also "We have to save the Country!" Several other men in first and the first couple of rows in Economy started standing up saying "do you think they need more help?".........It appeared to me that the two guys holding him were starting to lose the battle and I yelled basically yes, they could use some more muscle. (I am female and was terrified but would have been up there helping too if needed!) About 3 more guys stood up and jumped to the front.
He had a brother or companion that came up front and I guess was trying to help but there seemed to me to be a language barrier between the guys holding him, the two flight attendants and the "brother". In addition, we all had no idea what was really happening and there was a fear in all of us that the "brother" might be in on what was happening. The guy claiming to be the brother started yelling to stop it to the guy that was pinned but to no avail. In addition to all of this fun the pinned man starting making the most horrible wretching sounds as if he was vomiting. Loud sounds and several expressed concern about keeping him off of his back so he wouldn't choke. He apparently did not vomit but it all added to the weirdness. About then several started demanding that the brother go back to his seat...again, we did not know if it was some kind of crazy plot involving more people or what. Eventually, he aqreeed and returned to his seat which lessened to tension a bit. I remember one guy saying "we can keep this up for two more hours" which was true as the pinned man was continuing to struggle.
In the first bin over 1 A/C handcuffs were found and from somewhere duct tape was brought out. The passengers holding the man wrapped duct tape around the mans knees and ankles and then managed to handcuff him.
Channel 9 WAS on and the guy in 3D and myself listened to the conversations of the pilot and the Denver airport. It was believed that there might be a bomb threat since the guy was raving about needing his camera and the "camera in his stomach" comments" and permission was given to land in Denver under an emergency situation. Apparently two fighters were deployed out of Buckley AFB and were conversing with the pilot in order to figure out exactly what was going on. I suppose it could be said that if the piliot was not communicating sufficiently with the jets, that some sort of action would have been taken. Fortunatly, all was well in the cockpit and the pilots were excellent. They were given permission to return to DIA at a speed and route that was at their descretion. The Pilot came on and announced to the pax and crew that we had declared an emergency situation and that we were about 140 miles out of Denver and that Denver was preparing for our landing. The pilots did well in juggling talking to Denver ground, the jets and keeping the passengers pretty well informed on what would be happening to us.
Meanwhile, back in first, a gentleman walked up from the back and spoke a few words to the flight attendant. Some believed he was an air marshall which I don't quite believe or he would have been up to the front sooner. Others have stated that he was a Secret Service agent and still others believe he was an FBI agent going to Sacramento for a law enforcement seminar. I believe he may have been traveling with another law enforcement person. He took charge of the situation bringing his bag up to the front and taking out his own handcuffs. They took the duct tape off of the guy and stood him up and walked him back to 4C in economy, directly behind me. By now, he was very quiet which helped a lot to calm everyones nerves.
There was a lot of excitement yet to come as the pilots felt they needed to get the plane on the ground as quickly as possible were flying VERY fast towards DIA. Making lots of hard turns. As we got closer to Denver and were getting ready to land, DIA ground asked the pilot if he was going to be able to land at the angle he was coming in at and the pilot replyed that he thought yes but if he missed he would just come back around. Well, we experienced the most amazing approach and landing that any of us will ever experience in a lifetime. The vision I have is that of the Reno Air Races where you see planes flying at extreme angles and very close to the ground. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration but I would have to say only slight. I would give anything to be able to see our approach and landing on film. Several of the first passengers were very frequent fliers and were stunned at what we experienced. On final approach we banked very hard left and dropped in elevation dramatically. The ground, as we were banking, was so incredibly close! I apologize if I sound like a ninny but it was very exciting and scary. The landing was awesome. I feel that our pilot was extremely skilled and flew very well under extreme duress. Still listening to Channel 9 the pilot was unsure if we would have to emergency evacuate but it was determined to not be necessary.
When we landed, the "unruly" passenger was moved to the front door and the police came on and removed him very quietly. We had landed way out, very far away from the terminal. Those of us in first that were witnesses and some of the people that were near where the passenger sat were asked to give written statements. We were placed on a bus along with our carry-ons and taken eventually back to DIA.
United did an excellent, excellent job of organizing the entire process. All the passengers were brought into a large room in the B terminal that was filled with comfortable chairs. They brought refreshments for us and asked us to relax. When all of the passengers finally arrived to the room United may announcements that a plane was being prepared for us and that we would be leaving again in 2 hours. We were all thinking that we would be at DIA for hours and would undoubtely be staying overnight. United offered to fly those that did not want to fly that night to fly them the next day on Saturday.
They actually started loading us on the plane a little earlier than expected which was nice. It turned out to be the very same plane which was a bit interesting but fine as it meant that we would be leaving sooner because of it. We had a new crew and the return flight was quite pleasant.
I apologize that this post is so long and undoubtely a bit rambling but I wanted to provide as much detailed information as possible. All in all, I am very pleased with how well United performed in this very unusual and scary situation.
Just reciting the last DU posts he read before boarding.
Silly moonbat lefty...Everybody knows that Bush can see you only through your computer monitor.
Not my story. I'm just the vehicle by which it got posted here. It was whoever "Starwood Nut" is that wrote it.
I just wanted to clarify that.
Maybe he watched to many Telly Tubby episodes.
Any USAF pilot can fly a fighter break, it's not just the squids. (;-)
You have a second job we don't know about?
"I have a camera in my stomach"
A lot of places don't allow cell phones or stomachs with built-in cameras.
"I apologize if I sound like a ninny but it was very exciting and scary. The landing was awesome."
Some people actually enjoy this stuff! Me, it's not for me!
Good post, although based on another thread the guy could NEVER have gotten that door open, nor moved it even one inch.
But I'm darn glad people are paying attention. Let the Muzzies and any other would be miscreants pay attention to that.
Yes, but ... The USAF (trash haulers in particular) is (in-)famous for 10 mile straight in approaches. And you did say **ANY** USAF pilot can do fighter breaks.
I will say that watching F-15s do fighter breaks is cool. Just wouldn't want the pilots to spill their ice-tea on the way to the OC. ;-p
OK, OK, no AF bashing. My dad was a NAval Aviator. HE used to joke that the Navy could land his entire wing before the AF landed on final approach.
Naval Air transport pilots routinely practice short-runway and evasive take off and landing procedures as part of their routine flights, and I'm sure it's the same for USAF MAC pilots as well. They need to keep up their quals (i.e. for high threat locations like Iraq and Afghanistan), and I've been on many a routine NAVAIR flight in the states which felt pretty tactical, i.e. plane flys evasive pattern inbound, even using flairs if over a military base, airport lights come up 3 seconds before the plane touches down (i.e. small civ. airports), plane comes up the the terminal, wheels around, back cargo door opens, passenger door opens and ladder drops down, 25 Reservists toss their seabags in the back on their way up the ladder, the plane is taxiing before the door is closed, rotating as we are getting safety instructions, jinking left and right and dropping and adding altitude on the way out...etc.. Pretty interesting, the first time around. After a while, ya just bury your head in a Readers Digest during the flight, remember to take something Dramamine before the flight, and just get used to the Air-a-dales playing their games.
Back to the civilian jet; the pilot could well be a military reservists or ex-military, but any pilot in his right mind would want to put his plane down ASAP if there were any hint of a hijack or hostage situation. His defensive options are pretty minimal in the air.
Most civilians are used to the "commercial jet as bus", and forget that these things can really perform when they need to.
Around 1986, I was assigned to temporary duty in London (USNR, attached to CINCUSNAVEUR). I think the US had just bombed Kadafi. We were directed to grow our hair out a bit, to refrain from shaving, to hide our military ID, to carry a civilian passport, and vary our routes to and from hotels and offices. It was tense in the UK. Just getting to and into the Embassy and other USN buildings was dicey, due to Arab and anarchist protesters. (It was funny as heck, though, when I headed to work. Walking all around me were guys 21 to 30 years of age with shortish hair but not yet long, a day or three old beard, wearing almost identical military issue rain coats over civilian suits, and carring the same IDENTICAL Samsonite brief case. (Seems like every Ensign bought the same kind of brief case at the Academy or OCS during those days....lol). I thought to myself "dang...only a blind terrorist could miss identifying all of us as U.S. military service men. I dumped my briefcase and got a new raincoat the next day.)
On the flight inbound from the east coast USA to Heathrow, I noticed a short, wierd Middle Eastern guy. The two things that bothered me was not his ethnicity (the racial profiling did not; it was MY life I was protecting), but that he was pacing around in bare feet. His eyes were piercing. He was seething. He was probably in his early 20's.
Heathrow was socked in, so after (as I recall) about nine hours in the air, and several more circling, we were finally diverted to a Scandinavian Airport (can't recall which). We were told that "because of security concerns", we would not be allowed to de-plane. After 9 or 12 hours of being in an aluminum tube, folks were going nuts. We were out of food, drinks, even water, and the toilets were getting nasty.
I headed to one of the mid-section lavatories, and again, this guy was pacing around the wide body jet. About 10 seconds after I closed the door (I heard slamming and shouting. When I opened the lavatory door, the airline doors left and right were open, commando's with submachine guns were flooding the plane coming in via fast rope (maybe from helo's above?), and there was a desperate struggle immediately in front of me between the Middle Eastern guy, two short haired Americans, and a half dozen Commando's.
Within about 2 seconds, I made military-style snap decision, slammed the lavatory door shut and made myself comfortable (to stay the heck out of the line of fire), contemplating whether to eat my military ID or simply flush it.
It turns out, the two American guys were armed INS agents escorting an Iranian out of the country, unbeknownst to the airline staff. The commandos just took everyone down while the American's reached for their badges (very stupid) and yelled "INS...INS", as if that meant anything at all to the Europeans.
In the end it was both comical and tragic. The guy was heading back against his will to the land of the Ayatollahs, and he was either trying to avoid military service in the Iran/Iraq war, or perhaps was on one of the Revolutionary Guards many death lists.
It made for an interesting trip over though. We finally made it to Heathrow, about 12 hours late. It was a fine welcome to London, and nice start for my military duty.
Watch a "trash hauler" C-130 do a combat approach, you might just develop a little respect. They yank and bank those beasts
as if they WERE a fighter, I know because I got a few rides on them at Red Flag. I had a lot more respect for those guys after that.
I can see it now. " All passengers please have your boarding passes and your psych meds ready before boarding. Please place all microchips, cameras, receivers, listening devices and transmitters in the overhead compartment- not in a body part. If you should require more tin foil please buzz the flight attendant once the seat belt on sign has been turned off. Thank you."
"I have a camera in my stomach", "Kill Me "
He was trying to say "camel" - not camera. Airline food will do you like that.
I watched as a C-17 buzz our courthouse once. It was so close I could see (but couldn't read) the engine nacel markings from my truck.
You were actually fed by United Airlines?
That's the most amazing part of this story.
In addition to all of this fun the pinned man starting making the most horrible wretching sounds as if he was vomiting. Loud sounds and several expressed concern about keeping him off of his back so he wouldn't choke. He apparently did not vomit but it all added to the weirdness.
It sounds like the guy was possessed.
A segue is a smooth transition from one topic to another.
OMG!! How horrible an experience...thank GOD for good people.
When I was in Charleston, SC, I saw C5A drivers do some things that scared the "insert word" out of me and I was on the ground.
He's right. This incident demonstrates that.
And this is metaphorical. Note tagline.
Concur. I don't care if the hijackers have guns. Everyone knows the score now. Crashing the plane is 100% lethal, bullet wounds aren't.
Great read - thanks for posting it.
Absolutely. And if America's enemies think Americans are lacking in courage--or any other virtues--they're in for a wretched awakening!
The Spirit of Flight 93 is the Spirit of America! R.I.P., Todd Beamer. Be forewarned, enemies of America!
It was like the Old-Time Journalism, reminding me of newspaper articles I read about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Keep up the GREAT work...you might just start a new trend in reportage!!
Catching Bill & Hillary "doing it" together can have the same effect.
I had a Naval aviator on a joint assignment with the Air Force express his awe that an entire Air Force squadron was able to deploy on short notice with no maintenance delays. Seemed the Navy mx wasn't up to snuff.
Brave stuff and appropriate, the pilots have no idea if there are more nutcases or terrorists on board.
I overheard two pilots talking about a "sporty landing" in an airport elevator once and asked them what it was.
Turns out that the pilots love any out of the ordinary landing or deviation that results in fighter plane like moves that are unexpected and necessary (otherwise they get spanked by the bosses)
Think about it... why did pilots learn to fly? To do cool stuff in airplanes. Commercial pilots are flying buses, slow and steady. It is like going from a motorcyle or sports car to a city bus.
Nice to know these guys have the chops to do this stuff and that we make planes that can handle it.
When I fly I always take a stroll down the aisle and check out who I am flying with. Whoops am I profiling? Sure I am.
I like my life and being alive.
Bravo and three cheers to the passengers and the pilots.
Yeah ..... but they all flare to land.
RLOL... education is a scary thing. I like to avoid scary things. But I usually do a better job editing my BLOGs.
On the other hand, as a professional Navy logistics puke who has deployed in land, sea, and "purple suited" in USAF, USMC, and USA units, I can tell you that the operating environment of Naval Air is unlike anything else in the world. With four years of expeditionary war, the USAF is just now approaching the type of deployability that the Navy has excelled at for nearly 70 years.
Shouldn't compare apples and oranges in logistics, and the same applies for the pilot training, flight profiles, and the aircraft. USAF guys generally out perform USN and USMC guys in air to air combat, while they underperform in other areas. There's no difference in the talent and skill levels; it's all about the training and mission profiles. Congress and Pentagon bean-counters continually want to merge logistics and mission capabilities of the services, but something is always lost in the process.
Enough of the "off-topic" post, I guess...
The bottom line is we're all on the same team.
The captain of United 735 was a former navy f-18 pilot (my neighbor in Virginia), so he was very familiar with the steep descent profile.