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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2010

Flight attendant slides into fame


NEW YORK - Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who cursed out a passenger on the intercom and then slid out of the plane feet first, had long daydreamed about deploying an escape chute.

JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had long daydreamed about deploying an escape chute. JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater had long daydreamed about deploying an escape chute.

But he never thought he would.

"For 20 years, I thought about it," he said in an interview yesterday. "But you never think you're going to do it."

On Monday, on a full flight from Pittsburgh that had just landed at Kennedy International Airport, he did - after having a confrontation with a passenger whose bag hit him in the head.

He took the slide after getting on the plane's address system to curse out the passenger and thank others for his two-decade career.

During the interview, which took place in the elevator as he was leaving the building where he had spent the night, Mr. Slater also said that he did not realize while in custody that he had slid into the national spotlight.

"I had no idea," he said. "I didn't have access to much information, so to come out to all of this is a little bit overwhelming."

Mr. Slater, who was arraigned Tuesday on charges that included criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, also said he did not realize that he had been widely hailed as a hero.

"I missed that part," he said.

Mr. Slater would not discuss details of the confrontation. Neither would JetBlue, although it posted a 146-word statement on a company blog under the headline "Sometimes the Weird News Is About Us."

"Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants?" the post said. "While we can't discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet."

The post did not mention that Mr. Slater had been removed from duty, but he's apparently been suspended. A spokesman would not say if he was being paid. Mr. Slater retreated to the apartment building, where a friend lives, after posting $2,500 bail.

Federal and local aviation officials were investigating the security procedures at the airport that allowed Mr. Slater to make it home before police arrested him.

A neighbor, Howard Sirota, said hundreds of city, state and federal officers, a helicopter, and a SWAT team descended on Mr Slater's house before he was arrested.

"They acted like they were capturing Osama bin Laden," Mr. Sirota said.

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