Unruly air passenger due in court in Denver

January 11, 2010 7:45:58 PM PST
An AirTran Airways passenger whose actions prompted two military jets to scramble had at least five airplane-size bottles of wine on the flight, according to court documents.

Muhammad Abu Tahir, 47, is due in federal court Wednesday in Denver. An initial appearance scheduled Monday was postponed so an interpreter who speaks Tahir's native Urdu could be found.

Tahir, of Glen Allen, Va., was on a flight Friday from Atlanta to San Francisco. An affidavit by FBI special agent Martin H. Daniell III said that after demanding and drinking five servings of wine, Tahir went to the lavatory.

He opened the door twice, once to place his shoes and socks outside the door, according to the affidavit. The second time, the door opened to reveal he was shaving with no shirt on.

The affidavit said he refused flight attendants' requests to leave the lavatory.

North American Aerospace Defense Command sent two jets to tail the plane, whose captain decided to divert to Colorado Springs. Tahir was still in the lavatory when the plane landed, Daniell wrote.

Tahir allegedly admitted raising his voice and pointing his finger at a flight attendant but denied touching or grabbing a flight attendant, the affidavit said. He also said he thought the crew was being disrepectful to him.

Tahir, a permanent U.S. resident, faces the charge of interfering with a flight crew, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.