Man is hero on Boston-bound flight

Published: June 8, 2007 | 6355th good news item since 2003

Next time you take an airplane— you may want to ask Hingham’s Bob Hayden to come along.

In fact, his wife Katie would also be a nice addition.

If Saturday’s Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis where Katie attended an ice skating conference is any gauge then they are just the ones you want on your plane if something scary occurs.

Bob assisted the flight attendants with subduing and handcuffing two out-of-control passengers, while Katie remained calm and did not blink an eye.

As the flight was ready to take off one of the two men – whom the couple described as of Pilipino extraction – became highly agitated but was coaxed back to his seat, Bob says. The plane took off as planned; but about 15 minutes into the air, one of the men jumped out and laid down in the aisle while the other man stood over him yelling. At one point one of the men opened the overhead compartment and threw a suitcase on the floor.

The flight attendants spent most of the flight trying to calm them down, he said. In the meantime, Bob did not sit back during the flight and hope for the best. He used the time to confer with the flight attendants, explaining he was a retired Boston police officer and former Lawrence Chief of Police. He also walked up and down the aisle observing other passengers. He was concerned the men’s erratic behavior might have been planned as a distraction, and could potentially be part of a plan for a larger incident.

Things got really “hairy” when the pilot announced the approach into Logan, Bob said. One of the men again jumped up and the other one started yelling. Bob said he then asked the man sitting across the aisle, who turned out to be a retired Marine, for help.

“The flight attendant waived the handcuffs (plastic ties), which was the signal we had agreed on and the Marine and I subdued both men; I cuffed one while he was on the ground,” Bob recalls. The men causing the disturbance were belted tightly into their seats and Bob and the Marine sat next to them until, after the flight landed, the State Police arrived and took them off the plane.

Bob said passengers on the flight were frightened and some were crying.

“One woman asked me, ‘are we going to die?’ I said, ‘someday, but not today,’” he recalled.

According to published reports, State Police are investigating whether to charge the men criminally or treat it as a mental health matter.

Katie, who has been married to Bob for 42 years, says nothing he does surprises her so she remained calm on the Minneapolis flight.

“He has been a cop for most of our marriage,” she says. “I knew he was just going do what he has always done in the past — take care of the situation.”

Once the news surfaced about Bob’s heroic deeds, newspapers and TV shows started calling. Bob, who starred in the 2001 reality TV program “Lost” is comfortable with the media and with tricky situations. In that program, teams of two were taken blindfolded and then dropped off in a remote location with little resources. They had 25 days to find their way back. Bob and his teammate were left in the wilds of Bolivia.

Published in Life
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