SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — An incident involving an “unruly passenger” in the skies over Utah prompted an in-flight emergency aboard an Alitalia 777 jet airliner Thursday, forcing pilots to make a mass fuel dump before landing at Salt Lake International Airport.
Airport spokesperson Nancy Volmer confirmed the incident, saying the flight from Los Angeles to Rome was diverted to Salt Lake International after reports of a disturbance among its passengers.
The wide-body aircraft, the largest twin-engine jet in the world, then circled in the skies above Tooele County, including Tooele City, Grantsville and Stockton, for nearly 30 minutes while it dumped thousands of gallons of fuel in preparation for an emergency landing.
According to recordings between the plane and control tower obtained by Gephardt Daily, the first sign of trouble came at 6:45 p.m. as the Boeing 777 was cruising at 35,000 feet near Delta in Utah’s west desert.
“Salt Lake Tower, AZ621,” the pilot said. “We have a problem with one of the passengers and have to divert to the first available airport.”
Air traffic controllers at Salt Lake International responded to the call, ordering pilots to lower their altitude to 17,000 feet and to prepare for an emergency fuel dump.
The plane descended, circling Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain before heading north to Tooele County.
At 7:19 p.m. the jet began dumping fuel from its 45,000-gallon tanks with long vapor trails streaming from the aircraft’s wings.
While the pilots of the Alitalia flight spent the next 18 minutes jettisoning fuel, emergency responders, including law enforcement officers from Salt Lake City Airport Police and the FBI, moved into position on a runway far from the terminals.
The jet landed without further incident and the “unruly passenger” was met by authorities.
An FBI spokesperson told Gephardt Daily agents were dispatched to the scene, but refused to reveal the exact nature of the incident or whether anyone was detained.
A text attributed to a passenger aboard the flight was posted on the Twitter page FlightAlerts777. The post claimed the ‘unruly passenger’ had “tried to strangle his own mother and then attacked other passengers.”
Gephardt Daily multimedia journalist Monico Garza recorded video of the Alitalia flight during the fuel dump. To see it, please click on the video player above.