Civil Aviation

Former Boeing 727 Pilot tells the Story of when a Passenger confused a Thunderstorm Cloud for a Nuclear Mushroom Cloud, started a Ruckus aboard the Airliner and asked him to Land

‘While I was flying a [Boeing] 727 over the middle of North Carolina, a passenger saw a huge thunderstorm cloud and started a ruckus in the back by telling everyone it was a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud,’ Ron Wagner, former airline pilot.

‘While I was flying a [Boeing] 727 over the middle of North Carolina, a passenger saw a huge thunderstorm cloud—one of the biggest I’ve ever seen and started a ruckus in the back by telling everyone it was a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud,’ Ron Wagner, former USAF pilot in the Presidential Wing at Andrews AFB and former airline pilot, recalls on Quora.

‘It was a really big s****r! It towered up to nearly 70,000 feet.

‘This was WAY before security was an issue, so we had the flight attendant bring him to the cockpit so we could talk to him about it.

‘He claimed he was a former engineer who worked on above-ground nuclear tests and that THAT was a nuclear explosion. We said it’s a really big-ass thunderstorm. He said he knew exactly what thunderstorms looked like and THAT wasn’t one of them.

‘He insisted that we land immediately because the USA was now, officially, in a nuclear war and we needed to get on the ground.

‘He finally went back, but then everyone around him wanted to know what we said. He told them he didn’t know why we’re lying, but that as a nuclear expert, he assured them that North Carolina had now been nuked and we needed to land, but the crew was covering up something. Probably because we were all former military pilots and were now following orders.

‘The passengers started to get riled up and the flight attendant came back up to tell us what he was saying.

‘We called the guy back up and told him that if he didn’t shut up and say not one more single word, then we would, indeed, give him his wish by landing immediately, whereupon he would be removed by the FBI for interfering with an airline flight.’

Wagner concludes;

‘We told him he’d better be REALLY sure of what he was telling everyone. Of course, if he was right, then he’d be a hero. If he was wrong, he might end up with either some psychiatric care or some prison time.

‘His choice.

‘He decided that it could be a thunderstorm and went back and didn’t say another word the whole rest of the flight. He exited quietly with the rest of the passengers.’

Photo credit: Felix Goetting via Wikipedia and United States Department of Energy

A single Boeing 727-30 was acquired by the US Air Force (and designated C-22A) from the Federal Aviation Administration, this aircraft was originally delivered to Lufthansa. It served mostly with US Southern Command flying from Panama City / Howard Air Force Base.
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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