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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Delta pilot threatened to shoot captain on flight, investigators say

A Delta Air Lines plane sits at a gate Jan. 11 at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark.  (Nathan Howard/Bloomberg)
By Michael Laris Washington Post

A former airline pilot was charged last month with interfering with a flight crew after U.S. Department of Transportation investigators said he used a gun and threatened to shoot the captain during an August 2022 flight. Jonathan J. Dunn, then a Delta Air Lines pilot, used a dangerous weapon to assault and intimidate a member of the flight crew during the incident, according to an indictment filed Oct. 18 in U.S. District Court in Utah. He is no longer employed with the airline, Delta said. It declined to comment further, including on any possible injuries.

Dunn threatened to shoot the captain “multiple times” if the flight was diverted in connection with a passenger’s medical problem, according to the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General, which provided no further details on the circumstances.

He was allowed to carry a gun in the cockpit as part of a Transportation Security Administration program put in place in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the federal flight deck officer program, pilots can use guns “to defend against an act of criminal violence and air piracy while attempting to gain control of an aircraft,” according to the TSA, which said it covers the cost of the training and equipment.

Dunn was immediately removed from the program and the TSA took the gun, the agency said. It did not address a question on whether other assaults or problems have occurred in the program.

The TSA said pilots are subjected to a thorough vetting, must receive training at a federal law enforcement center and pass a firearms requalification twice a year.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Dunn “does not have a current FAA medical certificate, which is required for flying.”

An arraignment is scheduled for Nov. 16. Public court records did not list an attorney for Dunn.