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The BBC's Francesca Kasteliz
"The plane now stands empty at Nairobi airport"
 real 56k

The BBC's Andrew Harding, in Nairobi
"There is no indication the man had any sort of weapon, motive or demand"
 real 28k

Friday, 29 December, 2000, 14:42 GMT
BA jet plunges in cockpit struggle
The Jumbo at Nairobi airport
Cabin staff restrained the man until the plane landed
A British Airways jet came "within seconds of disaster" over Africa after a passenger stormed into the cockpit and tried to seize the controls.

The crew of the Boeing 747 wrestled with the male passenger, said to be a Kenyan national and "hysterical", as he tried to grab the joystick and controls.

BA information
UK: 0845 604 0172
Other: +44 208 283 9677
In the struggle the auto-pilot became disengaged and the jumbo was knocked off course, diving violently and plunging thousands of feet.

The captain, William Hagan, 53 and from Glasgow, said that if the drama had lasted four or five seconds longer the jet would have flipped on its back and the co-pilot would not have been able to regain control.

Celebrity passengers

There were 398 people on board flight BA 2069 from London's Gatwick Airport to Nairobi in Kenya.

Mr Hagan's wife was also on board the plane.

Jemima Khan
Jemima Khan was travelling with her family and two young children
The plane was packed with Kenyan nationals returning home and British holiday-makers heading out for a winter break, reportedly including rock singer Bryan Ferry.

Benjamin Goldsmith was with his sister, Jemima Khan, wife of the former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan, and his mother, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, widow of businessman Sir James, and other members of the family.

He said: "It was diving at a really weird angle going down to the left and basically very, very steep, shuddering violently.

"This was a scene of an aeroplane about to crash,

"I don't think there was a single person on the plane who didn't think we were going to crash. There were grown men screaming."

The pilot came straight on to the loudspeaker and said 'A very nasty man just tried to kill us all'

Benjamin Goldsmith, passenger
Four passengers suffered minor injuries as the plane lurched.

A BA spokesman in Nairobi said they had been taken to hospital along with a member of the flight crew who suffered a cut and a female member of the cabin crew who broke her ankle.

The unarmed man, who is thought to be in his mid-twenties, was restrained and the crew were able to land the plane safely at Nairobi airport at 0710 GMT on Friday. The intruder was arrested by Kenyan police.

'Under medication'

A Kenyan police spokesman said the man, a suspected mental patient, was escorted under police escort to Nairobi Hospital and was currently under medication.

He said the investigation into the incident was continuing and there had not yet been a decision regarding possible charges.

Ben Goldsmith
Ben Goldsmith: 'Every single person on that plane was absolutely terrified'
BA's director of customer services Mike Street said the struggle happened about an hour before the plane was due to land.

"This was a very rare but very frightening event. I want to apologise to our passengers for the distress they must have experienced.

"But I must congratulate the crew's bravery and professionalism which meant this incident was handled swiftly and safely."

There was no explanation why the man attempted to seize control of the aircraft. An inquiry into the incident is being launched by BA.

Staff from the airline have set up a counselling and advice service for passengers who were on the plane.

BA issued contact numbers for relatives. In the UK it is 0845 604 0172, and internationally it is 44 208 283 9677.

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See also:

29 Dec 00 | UK
Security in the skies
06 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Call for air rage treaty
01 Apr 99 | UK
Spotlight on air rage
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