Unruly man breaks into plane's cockpit, attacks pilot

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- An unruly and incoherent man apparently broke into the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines jet Thursday and attacked a pilot during a flight from Mexico to San Francisco, according to an airline spokesman.

The man was subdued by crew members and passengers until the plane landed in San Francisco at 7:50 p.m. PST, said Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Evans.

Peter L. Bradley Jr., 40, of Blue Springs, Mo., was arrested and taken to Mills Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame with bruises and facial abrasions, said San Francisco police officer Joe Reilly. The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating.

The co-pilot was taken to the same hospital, where he received eight stitches for a cut to his hand, Reilly said.

Flight 259 was coming from Puerto Vallarta. The MD-83 aircraft was scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Portland, arriving in Portland about midnight. The plane was carrying 43 passengers and 5 crew members, according to Alaska Airlines.

Earlier in the flight, Bradley had been speaking nonsense and took off his socks and his shirt, said Reilly. He repeatedly switched seats, disobeying flight attendants and the captain who told him to stay put.

Bradley eventually sat in first class, where, Reilly said, he made this threat: ''I'm going to kill all of you; keep away from me,'' while simulating the shape of a gun with his hand. Bradley is more than 6 feet tall and weighs more than 250 pounds, Reilly said.

Bradley allegedly broke through a locked cockpit door about 7:10 p.m., 40 miles outside of Monterey, Calif. He ''was going for the throttle and fuel controls,'' said Reilly.

During the cockpit scuffle, the co-pilot grappled with the assailant, using a tool similar to a shovel or pick to defend himself. The captain used the intercom to ask for help from first-class passengers.

Crew members and five to seven passengers wrestled the assailant to the ground. Bradley was bound, head and foot, with plastic restraints until arrival in San Francisco.

''The crew and the passengers acted heroically and they averted a tremendous disaster,'' Reilly said.

In San Francisco, police carried Bradley off the airplane and were holding him on unspecified federal charges. Bradley suffered bruises and facial abrasions.

It was not clear what was provoking the passenger's erratic behavior, Reilly said. Bradley made no attempt to hijack the airplane, Reilly said.

Alaska Airlines Flight 261 from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco crashed Jan. 31, off the Ventura County coast, killing all 88 people aboard. On Feb. 7, sparks flew from one of the engines of an Alaska Airlines flight that was leaving San Francisco after arriving from Puerto Vallarta. No one was injured in the second incident.

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