DEMING, N.M. — Authorities were searching Saturday for a man who held a knife to the neck of a pilot and attempted to hijack a medical transport plane before fleeing a tiny airport in southern New Mexico.
FBI supervisory agent Doug Beldon said Friday night's incident appeared to be isolated and unrelated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. No arrests have been made.
The University of New Mexico Hospital plane arrived at the Deming Municipal Airport about 9:45 p.m. to transport a baby from an area hospital. Paramedics had gone to get the child and the pilot stayed behind.
A man entered the back door of the plane and put a knife to the neck of the pilot and said, "Let's fly," Beldon said.
"It was very dark," he said. "The pilot . . . felt the knife to her neck."
The man was carrying a radio or police scanner. He was also wearing dark clothes that included a black hood with the eyes cut out.
The pilot started the King Air twin turboprop plane and headed down the runway when the back door opened and made a loud crashing noise. The pilot veered off the runway, Beldon said.
"Just after she veered off the runway, he struck her in the head three times with the radio device," he said. He said the man periodically repeated a word that sounded like "salama." Beldon could not identify the language of the word or give the exact spelling.
"He did speak with a foreign accent," which did not seem to be Spanish, Beldon said.
The pilot was taken to a Deming hospital, where she was treated and released Saturday morning. The FBI and officials with Seven Bar Flying Service would not release the name of the pilot.
University of New Mexico Hospital spokesman Sam Giammo said another plane was immediately dispatched to transport the child to Albuquerque, 200 miles north of Deming.