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Delta says pilot accused of threatening to shoot the captain no longer works for the airline

Pilot Indicted
Posted at 5:35 PM, Nov 01, 2023

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that the pilot accused of threatening to shoot the plane's captain during a flight no longer works for the airline, and federal officials say his authority to carry a gun on board was revoked.

Jonathan J. Dunn was indicted Oct. 18 and charged with interfering with a flight crew over an incident that occurred during a flight in August 2022. The Transportation Department's inspector general says Dunn, who was the first officer or co-pilot, threatened to shoot the captain after a disagreement over diverting the flight to take care of a passenger with a medical issue.

“Out of respect for the ongoing aviation authority investigation of this incident, Delta will refrain from commenting on this matter but will confirm that this First Officer is no longer employed at Delta," the airline said in a statement Wednesday.

The brief indictment in federal district court in Utah said that Dunn “did use a dangerous weapon in assaulting and intimidating the crew member.”

Dunn was authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to carry a gun on board under a program created after the September 2001 terror attacks and designed to safeguard the cockpit from intruders.

The TSA said Wednesday that it “immediately” removed Dunn from the program “upon learning of his actions, and took away his equipment.”

TSA said pilots must be vetted and attend training at a federal law enforcement center in New Mexico to become what is called a federal flight deck officer.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens with a current pilot's license, attend a one-week training course, and regularly pass a firearms test. Pilots who approved are deputized as a federal law enforcement officer and given a TSA-approved gun.

Interference with a flight crew is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Court records indicate that Dunn is scheduled to be arraigned on Nov. 16 in U.S. district court in Salt Lake City.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office there declined to comment beyond the information in the indictment.

The indictment was issued just a few days before an off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot riding in the cockpit jump seat tried to shut down the engines of a Horizon Air jet in midflight. Joseph David Emerson of Pleasant Hill, California, pleaded not guilty last week in Portland, Oregon, to charges of attempted murder and interference with a flight crew.

The incidents have revived debate about psychological screening, which relies largely on trusting pilots to volunteer information about their mental health. Pilots are required to disclose during regular medical exams any medications they take and whether they have depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol dependence.

Ross Aimer, retired airline pilot and now CEO of an aviation consulting company, said screening for mental health is far less than for drug and alcohol use and needs to be improved. He said pilots are unlikely to volunteer information that could point to mental health problems.

“If I mention something about having mental issues, I’m done" — a pilot's career can be over — Aimer said. “It's punitive, whereas if I go to my supervisor or somebody at the airline and say, ‘I think I’m an alcoholic.’ We have programs” that allow pilots to regain their licenses if they go through rehab and prove they are clean.


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