FBI Investigates Rowdy Passengers

The FBI is investigating whether alleged misbehavior by a group of passengers endangered the safety of a Northwest Airlines commercial flight from Memphis, Tenn., to Owensboro on Monday night.

A total of 16 passengers were aboard Flight 5852. Ten passengers, all from Owensboro, were detained aboard the plane by Daviess County sheriff’s deputies after the pilot and flight attendant said the group was unruly during the trip.

The 10, who were traveling together, included Thomas Earl Hayden, 53; Rose K. Hayden, 50; Nicholas P. Hayden, 19; and Roger Lee Hayden, 17; Robert G. Raley, 52, and Mary G. Raley, 34; James L. Payne Jr., 32; Christopher T. Phelps, 24; Seth S. Lawson, 18; and Clinton C. Simmons, 17.

Nicky Hayden and Roger Lee Hayden are professional motorcycle racers, and the group was returning from a race in Rosamond, Calif., according to Earl Hayden.

The pilot, Capt. Hayden Harrison, called for police to meet the plane when it landed because the group was throwing things at flight attendant Cindy Salsbery and calling her names, including obscenities, according to a report filed by Daviess County Sheriff’s Deputy Kent Taul.

The plane was littered with items of trash when police arrived and inspected the plane’s interior, Taul said.

“Our captain clearly believed that a group of individuals impeded the flight and crew members in the performance of their duties,” said Phil Reid, vice president of marketing for Northwest Airlines.

Feared For His Passengers

Harrison and Salsbery told police they could not identify which individuals committed which acts, but both said most of the group were involved. Harrison said the group’s actions created “a dangerous situation,” the police report said.

“He was in fear for his passengers and aircraft for much of the flight,” Taul wrote in his report.

The group was upset about the lack of air conditioning and drinks being served, and that they had not been allowed to use the restrooms, according to the report. Passengers not implicated in the behavior were allowed to leave the plane after sheriff’s deputies arrived.

“Persons leaving took turns thanking the pilot for their handling of the situation,” Taul said. “One of the persons leaving was noticeably in tears as she spoke with the pilot and attendant.”

Everyone in the group could face federal charges because the alleged misdeeds took place while the plane was in the air.

The sheriff’s department has turned over all reports to the FBI, said Capt. David Osborne. FBI agents would only say that the case is under investigation.

Northwest Airlines also plans to turn the matter over to the Federal Aviation Administration, which could enforce civil penalties, Reid said.

The federal Safe and Friendly Skies Act enacted in April increased the potential fines for disrupting a flight to $25,000, up from $1,100. Any civil penalties would be based on the severity of the case, which would be determined after interviewing crew members and passengers, said Tanya Wagner, FAA spokeswoman.