Skip to main content
Press Release

Cincinnati Man Sentenced for Brandishing a Weapon on Frontier Airlines Flight

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia

ATLANTA - William Allen Liebisch, 43, of Cincinnati, Ohio, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for interfering with the performance of the duties of a flight crew. Liebisch carried a box cutter on an airplane en route to Tampa, Florida, and told a fellow passenger that he wanted to stab someone aboard the flight, causing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Atlanta.                                                                                                                                      

“The flying public deserves to travel in peace without fear that a fellow passenger will create a violent disturbance,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Liebisch’s conduct created panic among the flight crew and his fellow travelers. His prosecution and sentence hopefully provide a message of deterrence to others.”

 “We would like to thank the passengers who took action to prevent the violence Liebisch threatened in the air.  No one should face harm while flying,” said FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will do everything we can to prevent violence, intimidation, and threats of violence that endanger passenger and flight crew safety on commercial flights.”

“Safety is paramount to everyone aboard commercial aircraft, including flight crew at their workplace,” said Joseph Harris, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General,  Southern Region. “As illustrated by today’s sentencing, we will continue working diligently with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold accountable unruly passengers who disrupt airline operations.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charge and other information presented in court: on November 11, 2022, William Allen Liebisch arrived at the Cincinnati airport with a ticket for Frontier Airlines Flight 1761, which was traveling from Cincinnati to Tampa. Liebisch entered the TSA security checkpoint where TSA officers confiscated a box cutter within his possession that the officials mistakenly believed they had disabled by removing the blade.

But once the flight departed, Liebisch inserted a spare blade that was stored in the handle of the box cutter. A passenger saw Liebisch use the box cutter to clean his nails. Another passenger reported to flight attendants that Liebisch said that he was going to stab someone. This information was passed on to the captain and the other flight attendants. Because there were no law enforcement officers on the flight, one attendant asked two male passengers to assist in keeping Liebisch confined in his seat. One passenger stood in the back nearby while the other took the seat of the passenger who made the report to the flight attendants. Both men and a flight attendant tried to keep Liebisch calm and under control for the remainder of the flight.

In the meantime, the captain made the decision to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport, which was Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Once the plane landed, the passengers were instructed to deplane immediately and to leave their belongings on the plane. Atlanta Police Department (APD) officers had positioned themselves at the gate and, in effort to maintain calm, chose not to board the plane, but instead to wait for Liebisch to exit.

As the final remaining passengers neared the exit of the plane, Liebisch charged forward towards a flight attendant while wielding the box cutter. A passenger then tackled Liebisch from behind as the APD officers rushed on the plane to subdue and arrest him. Liebisch’s disturbance on the flight, his arrest, and TSA’s baggage re-inspection protocols forced Frontier Airlines to delay the flight to Tampa until the following morning, due to safety regulations that limit the number of hours a flight crew may be on duty in one day.

Liebisch has been sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.  Liebisch was convicted of the charge on December 14, 2023, after he pleaded guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Transportation.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul R. Jones prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6280.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

Updated March 14, 2024

Violent Crime