A man tried to open the emergency exit door of a Qantas airplane while in flight. The incident happened on Flight QF12 from Los Angeles to Sydney while the flight was on its 13th hour of its 15 hour journey.
The plane was cruising at an altitude of 39,000 feet or 12 km above sea level, when the incident happened. The crew was quick to respond, the man was intercepted and returned to his seat. It was aboard an Airbus A380, as reported by Telegraph Co UK.
The man was identified as 41 year old US citizen Manuel Gonzalez. It was not clear why he tried to open the door. Her was brought back to his seat and crew members surrounded him by seating around him for the rest of the flight.
However, it is very unlikely that the emergency door would have been opened by the man. According to a pilot, Patrick Smith, "cabin pressure won't allow it." He says an aircraft door is like a drain plug and is fixed in place by the interior pressure. He also said that plane exit doors open retract upward into the ceiling or others swing outward, but that they open inward first.
Smith adds that 1,100 pounds are pushing against each square foot of the door. Furthermore, the door is secured by a series of electrical and/or mechanical latches. One would need a hydraulic jack or superhuman strength to open it. However, the other passengers would not know that. Mr. Smith is also the author of a book about air travel entitled "Cockpit Confidential".
When the Qantas plane landed, the plane's captain spoke to Gonzalez then he was turned over to the Australian Federal Police. He was later charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft; if found guilty, he can face up to 10 years in jail.
Gonzalez has appeared in Central Local Court on 18 January, and will next appear in court on 15 March. During the first hearing, the prosecutor for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said the case would "likely" be treated as an indictable offense.