Maui News

AA Flight Disturbance Caused by Butterfly Hallucination

October 4, 2017, 7:44 AM HST
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Anil Tuvanc Uskanli was escorted off an American Airlines flight after it landed in Honolulu on May 19, 2017. PC: bplus.noisefloor.dnb / Benjamin.

Anil Uskanli, the 25-year-old Turkish man who caused a disturbance on board American Airlines flight  from LA to Honolulu on May 19, 2017, and later plead guilty to interfering with a flight crew, attributed his in-flight behavior to a hallucination that he was chasing a butterfly.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A butterfly suddenly came out of the front pocket of the seat in front of him, Uskanli said in a Honolulu federal court on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

In the course of the flight, Uskanli got up to use the restroom, but did not lock the door to the lavatory, and became agitated, yelled and pounded on the walls when a fellow passenger entered the lavatory.

His testimony was quoted by news sources: “The butterfly went crazy … flew into the toilet. I followed it. I tried to kill it by punching it.”

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The flight crew and passengers witnessed Uskanli walking to the front of the plane with a blanket wrapped around his head and carrying a laptop.

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Crew members feared the laptop may have contained explosives.

A flight attendant used a drink cart to block him from advancing any further toward the cockpit.

Uskanli returned to his seat accompanied by an off-duty officer.

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The laptop remained on a drink cart, which prompted the captain to initiate bomb-threat procedures.

The secretary of Homeland Security was briefed. Two military fighter jets from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam were dispatched to escort the flight to safe landing.

The aircraft landed safely. Bomb technicans worked to secure the plane. K-9 units were deployed to sweep the aircraft. All passengers and carry-on bags were re-screened, and checked bags inspected by a TSA Explosive Detection Canine Team. No explosives were discovered.

Uskanli raised red flags even at Los Angeles International Airport, but experts said a lack of communication and an airline’s hesitancy to be caught on video again while extricating a passenger played a role in allowing him to fly.

In April, a United Airlines incident in which a passenger was dragged off an overcrowded plane drew worldwide attention.

Uskanli, 25, said he now realizes that he was ill and hallucinating.

A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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