It all started when a passenger on a Ghana-bound United flight out of D.C.’s Dulles Airport decided to recline his seat. That pissed off the passenger behind him, leading to an exchange of heated words between the men, and the recliner being “smacked in the head.”
That’s right: the very act you’ve fantasised about countless times before, but never dared actually do, because you are a civilised human being and not insane. But let’s just for a moment say that you aren’t. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you smacked your fellow passenger in the head after a massive jet takes off? Here’s what happens:
First, a flight attendant and another passenger “jumped in between,” the Washington Post reports. Alerted to the fracas, the pilot decided to spin the Boeing 767 back to Dulles to let the authorities sort things out, rather than risking the transatlantic flight to Ghana with two volatile and potentially violent passengers.
Small problem: The jet had 63,000 litres of fuel in it, which weighs 57 tons. That is a lot of fuel! You cannot land a jet with that much fuel in it. So air traffic control instructed the pilot to fly for half an hour and burn off the excess weight.
That’s when the Air Force got involved:
Audio transmissions indicate that the two Air Force fighters scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base at 11:03 p.m, just as the plane reentered Washington airspace.
Five minutes later, [two F-16]fighter escorts took up position 1,000 feet above the jetliner as it headed toward Dulles, sources said.
The plane eventually landed, and Dulles police were waiting at the gate. After an investigation, both passengers were let go and no charges were pressed. The flight, meanwhile, was delayed until the following morning.
It was unclear whether they were on the flight when it left Monday morning or, if so, where they sat, United spokesman Mike Trevino said.
That would be a pretty awkward reunion at the gate. “We now invite all passengers whose lack of self-control led directly to an Air Force intervention and the night we all just spent in a seedy airport hotel to not ever board the aircraft.” [Washington Post, photo via Shutterstock]