Southwest Airlines Flight 1763
Southwest Airlines flight 1763 was a scheduled passenger flight, operated by Southwest Airlines, from McCarran International Airport, in Paradise, Nevada, to Salt Lake City International Airport, in Salt Lake City, Utah. On August 11, 2000, Jonathan Burton, a Las Vegas resident, stormed the cockpit door of the Boeing 737 operating the flight, in an apparent case of air rage. The 19-year-old was subdued by six to eight other passengers with such force that he died of asphyxiation. The death was initially believed to have been a heart attack.
There were conflicting reports of Burton's air rage and the events which happened on the plane. CBS News reported the conclusion of the U.S. Attorney's office that criminal charges would not be filed because the death was not intended. Time ran an article by Timothy Roche entitled "Homicide in the Sky" in which they described the ruckus rising after Burton had initially been subdued. According to the article, the eight men who pinned Burton rose after Burton had injured an off-duty officer in his struggles and pushed aside the men holding him. Time reported that fellow passenger Dean Harvey said that one of the men involved continued jumping on Burton's chest even after he had been told that Burton was contained.
Dramas based on Burton
Four months later, an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation featured a plot paralleling Burton's death, “Unfriendly Skies”, where five complete strangers board a plane and kill a man after believing him to be trying to take down the plane; the episode was televised December 8, 2000. A year later, playwright Lucas Rockwood turned the incident into a play, Fifty Minutes, which was performed a few weeks prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
An episode of Mile High “Series 2 Episode 7” (first screened on 4 April 2004) also featured a plot echoing the death of Burton. In that episode, a young man of Arabian appearance is treated with suspicion by other passengers, panics, and attempts to reach the cockpit. Other passengers subdue him and strangle him to death in the process.
- Janofsky, Michael. "Neighbors' Gentler View Of Man Killed on Plane," The New York Times, September 23, 2000.
- Maher, Maureen. "A Death on Descent," CBS News, September 21, 2000.
- Roche, Timothy. "Homicide in the Sky," Time, September 24, 2000.
- Janofsky, Michael. "U.S. Declines to Prosecute in Case of Man Beaten to Death on Jet," The New York Times, September 21, 2000
- Tanzer, Joshua. "Fighter Flight" review of Fifty Minutes, August 19, 2001.