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3 injured on Delta flight after passenger tries to enter cockpit

SEATTLE — A Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Beijing turned back after takeoff Thursday night after a “security incident” in the first-class cabin.

Initial information indicated an unruly passenger attempted to enter the jet’s cockpit, according to two people briefed on the incident.

The plane turned back after a passenger attacked a flight attendant in the first-class cabin of the twin-aisle aircraft, said Perry Cooper, spokesman for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Passengers stepped in to subdue the alleged attacker, Cooper said.

Three people were injured aboard Delta Flight 129, including one passenger and one flight attendant, according to Cooper. The unruly passenger was also injured, but he declined medical care.

The flight turned back as it was flying over the western coast of Canada.

The Boeing 767 returned safely to Sea-Tac Airport around 7:40 p.m. PDT, according to the two people briefed on the incident.

Those sources initially said the plane returned to the airport under a Department of Defense escort. But representatives from Delta and the North American Aerospace Defense Command said no such escort happened.

“(The airline was) able to handle it at their level, so we didn’t go,” NORAD spokesman Maj. Andrew Scott said.

Delta said in a statement a passenger was restrained and removed from the flight because of a “security incident.”

Law enforcement officers took the passenger into custody after the flight returned to the gate, Delta said. The flight then departed again for Beijing shortly after midnight Friday.

The FBI was involved in the response to the incident. But “there is no information to suggest this is a national security threat,” said FBI public affairs specialist Ayn Dietrich-Williams.

The FBI Seattle field office maintains a regular presence at the airport, and is assisting and interviewing passengers from the flight, according to Dietrich-Williams.

The suspect, a 23-year-old man from Florida, was arrested by the Port of Seattle Police Department, the FBI said, with an initial appearance in federal court set for Friday.

“The FBI’s investigation is ongoing and more details about the incident will be provided and the charges announced at the subject’s initial appearance in federal court,” the FBI said.