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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 06:10 GMT
Man detained on US flight
Handcuffed passenger being put on flight to US
Nothing to suggest it was a terrorist attack, officials say
A man has been detained after trying to enter the cockpit of a United Airlines flight from Miami to Buenos Aires.

The man, named as 28-year-old Uruguayan banker Pablo Moreira, was overpowered by crew members of the Boeing 777 after an exchange of blows.

There was a huge panic, red lights were flashing and an army of people rushed forward to the front of the plane

Eyewitness Brian Hopman
He was taken into custody by the Argentine authorities on arrival at Buenos Aires Ezeiza international airport and given medical care, officials said.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for President George W Bush's Homeland Security Council, said there was nothing to suggest that the incident was a terrorist attack.

United Airlines said it had notified the local authorities and the FBI about the incident, adding that flights to and from Buenos Aires would continue as scheduled.

Surprise attack

Mr Moreira joined flight 885, which had more than 150 people on board, in Miami on Wednesday evening.

Half-way into the flight, he got up and started to bang on the cockpit door.

Brian Hopman, a passenger on the flight, said Mr Moreira seemed to want to talk to the pilot.

The captain opened the door thinking it was another member of the crew, and Mr Moreira stormed in punching both pilots.

"There was a huge panic," Mr Hopman said. "Red lights were flashing and an army of people rushed forward to the front of the plane."

Crew members and passengers then managed to overpower him with a fire-axe.

The FBI said Mr Moreira was currently in hospital in Buenos Aires being treated for a head wound, but was in a lucid and stable condition.

He is not thought to have been drunk at the time of the incident, but local officials described him as "mentally disturbed".

He is expected to return to Miami once he has recovered to face charges of interfering with a flight crew.

Flight security

Two hijacked United Airlines planes were among four aircraft involved in the 11 September attacks on the United States.

Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York while flight 93 came down in a rural area of Pennsylvania.

Improvements in flight security after the attacks included ensuring the safety of cockpit doors.

But a number of incidents since the attacks have highlighted safety concerns.

On 28 January a woman was removed from an America West Airlines flight about to depart Phoenix, Arizona, for the Californian city of San Diego for alleged disruptive behaviour.

And two days later San Francisco International Airport was closed for two hours after a man thought to have explosives residue on his shoes evaded security guards.

The BBC's Peter Greste
"A terrifying ordeal in the skies"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | UK
Q & A: Airport security
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