A man who allegedly tried to force his way into a plane's cockpit in midair was not on aviation watch lists, even though he had tried to commandeer another plane before, ABCNEWS has learned.
The man started pounding on the cockpit door of a South African Airlines flight from Cape Town to Atlanta at about 6 a.m. ET this morning, the FBI said.
"About two hours before the plane landed, a passenger identified as James Drake, 53, a U.S. citizen, attempted to rush the cockpit door," FBI special agent Joe Parris told ABCNEWS. "He was restrained by two passengers."
As soon as the flight landed in Atlanta, the FBI took Drake into custody.
Not the First Time
But this was not the first time Drake was disruptive on a plane. In 1987, Drake burst on board the cockpit of an Air Canada airliner at the airport in San Francisco, took 11 members of the flight crew hostage and threatened to kill the pilot if he was not flown to London.
A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that Drake suffered from hallucinations and self-destructive behavior. He later spent nine years in a North Carolina mental institution.
Even though he did not hurt anyone, he still caused a disturbance on a plane and tried to get into the cockpit of the Air Canada plane — but none of that information was available to federal aviation officials or South African Airlines.
When asked if the airline had any information that this passenger had a similar incident in his past, Executive Vice President Mark Hellenger said South African Airlines was "not aware of it. No airlines have that sort of info on passengers."
Federal officials are at a loss to explain why someone who previously tried to commandeer an aircraft 16 years ago was not on an aviation watch list, ABCNEWS has learned.