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Delta Captain Locked Out of Cockpit Just Before Landing

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In an awkward (and potentially scary) turn of events yesterday afternoon, Delta’s Flight 1651 ended its 2.5-hour journey from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS) with an emergency landing at the latter airport—because the aircraft’s captain had been locked out of the cockpit.

Having stepped away for a minute, the captain of a Delta flight from MSP-LAS was unable to re-enter his cockpit due to a door jam. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Having stepped away for a minute, the captain of a Delta flight from MSP-LAS was unable to re-enter his cockpit due to a door jam. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Just prior to the final landing approach, the unidentified captain had left the cockpit in order to use the restroom, leaving the plane’s first officer alone at the controls. Upon his return a few minutes later, the captain found the door inexplicably jammed. At about 12:10 p.m., ground control at LAS was notified of the emergency situation, and within 15 minutes, the first officer had safely landed the plane at LAS.

This happy event was met with a spontaneous round of applause from all 168 passengers aboard.

Happily, Delta Flight 1651 landed safely at LAS—despite the emergency situation. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Happily, Delta Flight 1651 landed safely at LAS—despite its emergency. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Commercial aircraft are always able to be landed with only one pilot at the helm, and both captains and first officers pilots are trained for this type of situation. During the entire incident aboard this McDonnell Douglas MD-90, the first officer stayed at the controls on the right seat of the cockpit, leaving the plane’s taxiing controls unmanned once on the ground and requiring the aircraft to be towed from the runway to the gate.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that the plane’s door is being investigated by airline maintenance technicians. Amidst a winter that’s brought us a “nutroversy” and “hot watergate,” this story could be considered simply, “The Door Jam Incident”—and a relief to all of us who love to fly.
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