NEW YORK (AP) — A pilot accidentally locked himself in the bathroom aboard a flight to New York City and touched off a brief hijacking terror scare that underscored the fears about air travel that still linger more than a decade after 9/11.
The captain of Delta Flight 6132 got stuck in the lavatory Wednesday during the flight from Asheville, N.C., to La Guardia Airport.
When a passenger with an accent tried to alert the co-pilot in the cockpit, the co-pilot became alarmed and notified air traffic controllers, according to a recording of the radio exchange from the website LiveATC.net.
"The captain has disappeared in the back, and I have someone with a thick foreign accent trying to access the cockpit right now, and I've got to deal with this situation," the co-pilot said.
Indianapolis-based Chautauqua Airlines, which operates the flight for Delta, said the pilot had decided to take a bathroom break about 30 minutes from LaGuardia after controllers told the crew to expect to be in a holding pattern.
The sole flight attendant on board had entered the cockpit when the captain left because security rules require two crew members in the cockpit at all times. The Embraer 145 commuter jet was carrying 14 passengers.
The captain gave the passenger a password to get into the cockpit, but the co-pilot and flight attendant were still doubtful, the recording shows.
"Someone with a thick foreign accent is giving me a password to access the cockpit, and I'm not about to let him in," the co-pilot said.
As the minutes ticked by, a controller told the co-pilot to consider declaring an emergency, which would give the plane priority over all others.
"OK, Chautauqua, you guys ought to declare an emergency and just get on the ground," the controller said.
The captain eventually freed himself from the lavatory and came on the radio to tell controllers there was no danger.
"The captain — myself — went back to the lavatory and the door latched," he said, explaining that he "had to fight my way out of it with my body to get the door open."
"There is no issue, no threat," the captain said.
Chautauqua said the crew followed security rules correctly and that the flight was never in jeopardy. Both pilots on airliners are qualified to land the plane by themselves.
"The first officer did the right thing in securing the flight deck when he was not able to personally confirm the status of the aircraft's captain," the airline said in a written statement.
"No one was ever in danger, and everyone, including the good Samaritan who tried to help the captain, as well as the crew, are to be commended for their actions," it said.