United Airlines Boeing 767 Flight 990 Reclined Seat Fist Fight F-16 Escort

by Aviation News Reporter on June 1, 2011

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United Airlines Flight 990 Fist Fight

United Airlines Flight 990 Boeing 767

The skies weren’t so friendly for two brawling passengers on a United Airlines Boeing 767 flight to Africa.

Air Force fighter jets were scrambled and the Ghana-bound plane returned to Dulles International Airport after the Sunday night fight aboard United Flight 990.

The cause of the punch-up shortly after takeoff: A seat reclined too far into the personal space of a fellow passenger, according to The Washington Post.

The flier in the offending seat was smacked in the head over his travel transgression, setting off a fistfight between the two, the Post said.

The pilot opted to take the 10:44 p.m. flight, with its 144 passengers, back to Dulles rather than continue with the 11-hour trip to Accra, Ghana.

At one point, the pilot informed the tower of his plans – and was asked if the main combatant was under control.

“Negative,” the pilot says calmly. “The passenger is not secured at this time. The passenger has settled down though, but an assault has taken place. But at this time he is not secured.”

The report of the mid-air assault led federal officials to send a pair of F-16 fighter jets to escort the United flight back to the airport in suburban Virginia.

“They were just following typical procedures when you have disturbances,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Commander William Lewis, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Police greeted the battling passengers when they arrived back to Dulles shortly after midnight. Neither passenger was injured, and no arrests were made.

The unruly passengers are likely to have cost the airline a significant amount of money, with around $50,000 worth of fuel dumped, and delayed the flight until Monday. It is not known if the two men were aboard that flight, or more pertinently, where they were sat.

All the passengers eventually left Monday morning on their trip for Africa.

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