An unruly passenger tried to headbutt the captain on board a transatlantic aircraft that was forced to divert to Shannon Airport today.

Judge Patrick Durcan said that Damian Kington, 35, had endangered the safety of the crew and his fellow passengers on board the British Airways service to London City Airport.

The Australian was one of 30 passengers on board the exclusive business class 32-seater service BA operates between New York's JFK airport and London City Airport.

Judge Durcan told the court: "Being on board a small aircraft over the Atlantic faced with someone trying to headbutt the captain is very frightening."

He said in his view, the seriousness of the incident is such that the most severe penalties that can be imposed will be imposed.

The maximum penalty under which the two air rage charges Mr Kington has pleaded guilty to is a four-month jail-term.

In his statement to gardaí, captain and commander of the aircraft, Mike Jones said that Mr Kington was cursing and swearing in the galleyway after been given a written warning that he must remain in his seat and stop his unruly behaviour.

Captain Jones told gardaí Mr Kington swore at him, pushed him and tried to headbutt him.

The captain said it took two people to restrain the defendant.

He said: "At this point I considered him a serious risk to passengers and to the safety of the flight."

Mr Kington was put in handcuffs and was secured to his seat with nylon straps.

The captain said that the flight was one-and-a-half hours out from Shannon when the disruption became serious.

Solicitor for Mr Kington, Una Moylan said that her client has no recollection of the incident on the flight whatsoever and was mortified and devastated when she read out the garda statements to him.

She said: "He describes himself as a very gentle soul and told me that he had never in his life tried to headbutt someone before and this is completely out of character for him. He is mortified and genuinely remorseful."

Ms Moylan said that Mr Kington took prescribed medication, a Zanex and an Ambien tablets in an effort to go asleep.

The court heard that Mr Kington drank between four or five small bottles on wine on the flight.

The solicitor said Mr Kingston had never mixed these drugs and had never taken them with drink.

She said that her client heads up a marketing team for a high profile investment company and any conviction would have serious ramifications for him.

Ms Moylan asked that the Probation Act be imposed.

Judge Durcan said: "I am not really interested in incarcerating your client, but I am interested to ensure that those who have suffered loss are compensated."

The judge adjourned the case until Friday to Ennis District Court to allow the issue of compensation to BA be addressed and to also determine if Mr Kington has previous convictions in other countries.

Mr Kington was released on bail.