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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mentally Ill Passenger Throws U.S. Jetliner Into Mad Panic

CHICAGO -- U.S. military jets scrambled to escort a commercial jetliner to a safe landing after passengers helped the crew subdue a mentally ill man who forced his way into the cockpit, authorities said.

Sonic booms set off by the two speeding military jets above Chicago's northern suburbs rattled nerves, though the incident aboard the American Airlines jet bound for Chicago from Los Angeles was not linked in any way to the Sept. 11 hijacked-plane attacks on New York and Washington.

The FBI said Edward Coburn, a 31-year-old resident of Fresno, California, with a history of mental illness, was subdued by a co-pilot and another crew member with the help of passengers.

Coburn was charged Tuesday with obstructing a flight crew.

He was traveling with his elderly father, who had alerted crew members before the incident that his son was acting strangely and could pose a problem, said FBI spokesman Ross Rice.

Witnesses on Flight 1238, which was carrying 153 passengers and nine crew members, said the man bolted toward the cockpit from the center of the plane and several male passengers chased after him. They said the plane pitched violently left and right before the man was subdued.

"I saw the cockpit door open and the plane went to both sides. Then it leveled off and dropped a little bit. The pilot came on ... and said he was requesting an emergency landing and someone had stormed the cockpit and he had been apprehended and they were in control," said passenger Perry Rice.

Two military jets appeared alongside the Boeing 767's wings within minutes, witnesses said, and FBI agents met the plane after it landed. The airline said no one aboard was hurt.

U.S. President George W. Bush has authorized two generals to give the order to shoot down a commercial airliner if it is deemed necessary in the wake of the deadly plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.