Student Pilot Faces Federal Charges After Alleged Cockpit Breach Incident

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A 19-year-old student pilot is facing federal charges after allegedly repeatedly attempting to enter the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight on March 3.

According to CBS News, based on court records, Nathan Jones left his seat multiple times during Flight 322 from San Diego, California, to Dulles, Virginia, making three separate efforts to access the cockpit door.  

An affidavit filed by federal air marshal Thomas G. Pattinson noted that off-duty law enforcement officers helped flight attendants restrain Jones in flex cuffs and sat on either side of him for the remainder of the flight. To prevent further disruption, access to the flight deck was restricted for the duration of the flight and flight attendants used a beverage cart to barricade entry to the cockpit, according to the affidavit.

When questioned on his intentions, Jones told flight crew he was “testing them.” Upon landing Jones consented to a search, where law enforcement found several notebooks containing instructions on aircraft operation including takeoff, mid-flight and landing procedures, in addition to a student pilot certificate in his wallet.

Jones was charged with interference of a flight crew, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The FAA is investigating the incident.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

14 COMMENTS

    • Yep–“Student Pilot” “testing” the ATP-rated flight crew.

      Having his student pilot textbooks along isn’t necessarily an indication of bad intentions. (curiosity perhaps)–but THREE TIMES trying to get into the cockpit, and the ‘testing them” comment doesn’t look good.

      • Well, that depends on whether “instructions on aircraft operation including takeoff, mid-flight and landing procedures” were for a Cessna 150 (which every student pilot should study time and time again) or for a big Boeing. If he had books on how to fly and land the Boeing, that’s another nail in his coffin.

      • That’s what I expect. One of these times the sentence ought to be the full 20 years, in a psychiatric facility to defuse the excuse.

  1. Another disturbed kid, I guess…yet, the FAA has decided to go after former Military pilots from an aeromedical standpoint, as their priority. Yeah…makes sense.

    • “Former military pilots”? Are you referring to the ones who were receiving disability benefits from the VA and then not reporting that to the FAA, which is required?

    • If he had a “student pilot certificate”, that means he’s got at least a 3rd Class medical, isn’t it?

      As for dual time, who knows.

      • It has been many years since the DME issued the Student Pilot Certificates.

        My 3rd Class medical in 2001 had my Student Pilot Certificate on the flip side, but it is no longer done that way.

        These days the DME issues a medical. The CFI and IACRA issue the Student Pilot Certificate. You can get either without the other.

  2. Why is everyone so upset? All he wanted to do is let them know that he was ready, willing, and able to step in to help in case they had an emergency…

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