A flight from Washington to Denver had to return to Dulles International Airport after a pilot reported that a passenger became violent, ran toward the cockpit and had to be restrained.
United Flight 1074 returned after takeoff Monday evening. Local police met the aircraft at the gate and detained the passenger, according to the airline.
The passenger was taken to a hospital for evaluation and has not been charged, airport spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said.
Recordings of communications between pilots and air traffic controllers on the website LiveATC.net indicate that pilots turned around after a passenger ran toward the cockpit and had to be restrained by other passengers.
The pilot, in a calm voice, said he was "declaring an emergency due to a passenger disturbance. He's restrained. We need to return to the airport," according to the recording.
The pilot later explained that "we had a passenger becoming violent" and that he "ran toward the cockpit."
The pilot reported that the incident was a "Level 2" disturbance, the second lowest level of severity on a four-level scale. A Level 2 disturbance indicates physically abusive behavior but no life-threatening behavior.
Donna Tellam, a computer processing executive who was returning from London, said she was seated in the second row of first class when a man came running from the back of the plane about 15 minutes into the flight. He was yelling profanities and said the plane was going down and it was flying too slowly, she reported.
Tellam said two men behind her jumped up and grabbed the man, and put him on the ground in the aisle next to her seat, where he remained until the plane circled back.
"They laid on him and he just kept shouting incoherent things like 'I can make you and your family rich', 'I live next to Apple,' 'I live next to Boeing', 'Let me go and let me live and I'll make our families rich," she said after landing via another flight in Denver on Tuesday morning.
She said the two men who grabbed the suspect acted so quickly and thoroughly — removing his shoes and checking for weapons — that she thought at first they were air marshals.
"It went from a state of the most fear I'd ever had in my life to calm. They had it under control so I was grateful to them for sure," she said.
Associated Press writer P. Solomon Banda contributed from Denver.