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Man Breaks Into Plane’s Cockpit

March 17, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Passengers terrified by a man who muttered incoherently as he roamed the aisles of their commercial jet, then attacked a pilot in the cockpit, averted disaster by tackling him before he could reach the controls.

``Fortunately all the guys moved quick and he ain’t dead and we’re not dead,″ said passenger Robert Benjamin, 56, of West Linn, Ore., who helped restrain the assailant. ``I was scared to death.″

Federal authorities today were holding Peter L. Bradley Jr., 40, of Blue Springs, Mo., at Mills-Peninsula Hospital, where he was being treated for bruises and facial abrasions. The co-pilot was taken to the same hospital, where he received eight stitches for a cut to his hand.

There was no immediate word on what charges Bradley faced, Sgt. Joe Reilly said. The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating.

Police had no motive for the attack on Alaska Airlines flight 259 from Puerto Vallarta to San Francisco on Thursday evening. The plane was carrying 43 passengers and five crew members.

Bradley had not tried to hijack the MD-83 jet, but did threaten to kill people on board, Reilly said, adding that Bradley might have been on drugs or alcohol, or in need of psychiatric medication.

``What really scared me was when he tried to open up an exit,″ said Chris Honochick, 37, of Salem, Ore., who also helped tackle Bradley.

Bradley repeatedly switched seats, disobeying orders to stay put.

He 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 allegedly shoved a flight attendant and broke through a locked cockpit door about 7:10 p.m., as the plane flew near Monterey, 115 miles south of San Francisco.

He ``was going for the throttle and fuel controls,″ said Reilly.

During the 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 first-class passengers for help.

Crew members and five to seven passengers wrestled Bradley _ more than 6 feet tall and weighing about 250 pounds _ to the floor. He was bound with plastic restraints until arrival in San Francisco at 7:50 p.m.

After a delay to gather evidence, the flight continued to Portland, arriving two hours late.

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 that incident.

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On the Net: Airline site: http://www.alaskaair.com

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