Pablo Moreira-Mosca, 29, paced up and down the aisles of United Flight 855, entering the first class section of the plane several times before he rammed his shoulder into the cockpit door at least six times, according to an FBI affidavit.
While passengers tried to restrain Moreira-Mosca, he kicked open the lower part of the cockpit door and crawled inside up to his torso. Crewmembers hit him with the blunt end of an ax before a doctor on the flight sedated him, the affidavit states.
Shortly before landing in Buenos Aires, Moreira-Mosca allegedly said: "I wanted to destroy everything."
Moreira-Mosca was sent back to the United States and appeared in court Friday on a charge of interfering with a flight crew, which carries up to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors said a prison term of eight to 10 years would be likely under sentencing guidelines.
He appeared in court with a bruise under his right eye and was ordered held without bail, pending a second hearing Tuesday.
The incident began Thursday midway into the United Airlines flight from Miami to Buenos Aires. Several of the 157 people aboard the flight said Moreira-Mosca was shouting that he wanted to talk to the pilot as he rushed to the front of the plane.
"No information at this time indicates it's a terrorist incident. But, of course, the FBI is investigating," Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for President Bush's Homeland Security Council said Thursday.
The drama in the sky also highlighted air travel safety concerns prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Richard C. Reid's alleged attempt in December to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with bombs hidden in his shoes.
The Department of Transportation gave all airlines until early January to strengthen cockpit doors. Many have done so, and the industry has said it envisions installing stronger doors in the future.
United and American airlines both have reinforced their cockpit doors with metal bars.
David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, a passenger group, said Thursday's incident shows that further security steps are needed.
"There are vulnerabilities in the system put in place involving a single bar across the (cockpit) door," he said. "Maybe they could put in additional bars."
Moreira-Mosca who works for a bank in Montevideo, Uruguay did not appear drunk and was not armed, Orihuela said.
Argentine authorities said they were investigating whether he was under the influence of drugs or mentally distraught.
"He doesn't remember what happened," said Argentine Air Force spokesman Jorge Reta.
Passengers reported minutes of chaos, scuffling and blood being spattered about as punches flew.
Brian Hopman, an Associated Press sales representative aboard the flight, said he saw red lights flashing and people rushing to te front of the cabin when it all began.
"There was a big struggle between the pilots and this guy and also some first-class passengers. It appeared that they had been involved in the altercation and had blood all over their clothing," said Hopman, who was in the middle section of the plane.
Another traveler, Lucia Tilia, said pilots used their belts to tie Moreira-Mosca down, later allowing him medical attention.
"The pilots had to hit him to tie him down," she said.
United Chairman and CEO Jack Creighton said in a statement the reinforced door helped prevent Moreira-Mosca from entering completely into the cockpit.
"The passenger never gained full entry," he said.
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