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April 22, 2006 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday United Flight 735 from Chicago to Sacramento made an emergency landing in Denver when an unruly passenger tried to open the cabin door. (bugmenot/bugmenot) A member of the Flyertalk forum was on the flight, and provided a first hand account of the emergency.
posted by nathan_teske (49 comments total)

 
Sounds like everyone over-reacted.
posted by mildred-pitt at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2006


The Flyertalk post makes me think otherwise mildred. Seems like this was close to being very confusing. Imagine a plane going down with no warning. It sounds like a bad PCP trip, but had it been successful, it would likely have been assumed to be terroristic activity.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2006


mildred, did you read any part of this before you posted? If you didn't STFU; if you did, you're an idiot. What part of open the CABIN door, and sudden decompresson, do you not understand?
posted by CCK at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2006


CCK, you know that, in general, on a commercial airliner, it's not possible to open the cabin doors during flight, right?
posted by buxtonbluecat at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2006


That must have been frightening. WTF mildred-pitt?!
posted by ParisParamus at 11:23 AM on April 22, 2006


I've often thought about what would happen in that scenario, and that pretty much describes my nightmarish fantasy to a tee. Thrilling.

I used to work for the FAA and this situation was handled exactly right. You cannot have people going buck wild inside of an aluminum tube going six hundred miles an hour, seven miles above the ground.
posted by wigu at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2006


What part of open the CABIN door, and sudden decompresson, do you not understand?

How he could have pulled (yes, pulled, you have to pull the door inwards first before it will swing out) the door in against the quite literally tons of force holding it closed. Work it out.

If the aircraft was low enough that the pressure differential wasn't enough to hold it closed, decompression wasn't an issue. The only person who gets killed then is him, when he gets thrown out the door and splats -- but it is clear they were at high altitude. That door wasn't opening for any force short of one that would shatter the frame.

So, yes, if he'd gotten the door open, they'd all be dead, except for him, since he'd be The Incredible Hulk.

I've no problems with the divert to get him off the plane -- matter of fact, I've no problems presenting him with the fuel bill for the diversion. But this idea that he had a chance in hell of killing everyone aboard by opening a door at altitude is, well, idiotic.
posted by eriko at 11:29 AM on April 22, 2006


Ach. Flyertalk doesn't show the whole thread if you link to a specific post. A link to the whole thread (jessamyn / matt - if you would add this to the post please?)
posted by nathan_teske at 11:30 AM on April 22, 2006


mildred-pitt and buxtonbluecat, why do you assume that everyone knows it is not possible to open the cabin door during a flight? I'm really, really impressed that you're so knowledgeable about airplanes, but to act like the people on the plane are idiots for being terrified is a bit unreasonable.
posted by jayder at 11:47 AM on April 22, 2006


Maybe those people who were on the plane who would know, like the crew, could have tried calming people down by reminding them that the pressure differential makes it impossible to open the door?

From reading the first-hand account, it seems a lot of the stress came directly from worrying that if he could lunge at the door one more time, they'd all die.
posted by odinsdream at 11:50 AM on April 22, 2006


I understand that the doors don't miraculously open, but when a guy is trying to do just that, who knows what else is going on in other places within the plane. Sounds like a perfect distraction. Wouldn't you agree? Something to take very seriously, maybe even make an emergency landing. The point being. The crew, passengers (and apparently United on the ground in Denver) handled this exactly as they should have. And Mildred is still or MORAN (yes, that was on purpose)
posted by CCK at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2006


Sounds like everyone over-reacted.

I don't think anyone overreacted: a crazed, belligerent passenger on a flight is a dangerous situation, and I think they handled it well.

What would you have them do? They subdued the guy, landed as quickly as possible, got him off to plane, and flew back out. Sounds like a very reasonable reaction to me.

People on airplanes are physically and psychologically vulnerable. There are actually specific laws that recognize that. It's easy to say in hindsight that the guy was not so dangerous, but this is not an estimation anyone should wager at thousands of feet off the ground.
posted by ori at 11:53 AM on April 22, 2006


Now if folks on planes would just react the same way to loud talkers, cell phone bellowers and seat kickers, I'd be a happy traveler.
posted by onegreeneye at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2006


Just in case anyone thinks that this is post-9/11 hysteria and an over-reaction:

"11 August 2000; Southwest Airlines 737; en route from Las Vegas, NV to Salt Lake City, UT: The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City when about 20 minutes before landing, a 19 year old passenger became belligerent and attempted to enter the cockpit. While being escorted back to his seat, the 19 year old attacked another passenger. A number of other passengers subdued him until the aircraft landed. After landing, the now unconscious passenger was removed from the aircraft and he died several hours later. The medical examiner found traces of drugs in the dead passenger's system, but listed the cause of death as suffocation. The death was classified as a homicide, but none of the passengers involved in the incident were charged with a crime. No other crew members or passengers were seriously injured or killed. Because this passenger death was due at least in part to the deliberate actions of that passenger, this does not constitute a fatal event as defined by AirSafe.com."

When people get up and start trying to bust down doors, passengers fight back.

And this isn't the first time I've seen threads on flyertalk.com that seemed to be a little... shall I say, overly dramatic.
posted by drstein at 12:04 PM on April 22, 2006


Excellent post, Nathan.
posted by apocalypse miaow at 12:07 PM on April 22, 2006


Well, the guy was saying he had a bomb, according to the report. So people were right to freak out initially. One of those coulda opened things up real good, pressure differential or no.
posted by washburn at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2006


Jayder, you're right. It's infinitely preferable - especially in the wake of events such as this one - that people remain ignorant of reality. I'll know better next time.
And if someone ever tries to open the door of a plane you're riding on, you keep on thinking that they just have to pull the handle and you'll die. Panic all you like. Me, I'll take comfort in the facts. (I'd also like to apologize for saying that the crew acted completely inappropriately. Oh wait, I didn't.)
Jesus.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 12:41 PM on April 22, 2006


reading mildred-pitt's previous comments across the blue, you'd think s/he is a bot...
posted by slater at 12:51 PM on April 22, 2006


I've got a camera in my stomach too...
posted by RufusW at 12:54 PM on April 22, 2006


I am an idiot-bot?
posted by mildred-pitt at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2006


idibot
posted by RufusW at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2006


I think I'm on the side of the folks here saying that a guy walking around a plane pulling levers == Not Good. Even if you can say that the door was impossible to open, somebody ready to do that is -- one would wisely presume -- ready to do anything else dangerous.

In this case the passengers cooperated with the crew to subdue and bind the unruly man. Concern for his health, such as choking, was voiced and he survived.

I'm not really sure what overreacting in this situation would look like, but I think that injury or death of the subject would be one way to gauge that. I do think that serious discussion of a shootdown is somewhat unnecessary.
posted by dhartung at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2006


jesus mildred & eriko, if you were on a plane and some guy started trying to force the door of the plane open claiming they want to die, would you politely discourage anyone from trying to stop him?

don't be daft. you'd know he couldn't open it but you'd still shit yourself and hope they got him under control asap, since you'd have absolutely no idea whether he'd got some other plan far worse in store.
posted by 6am at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2006


Only one thing could've made this flight worse: snakes.
posted by bjork24 at 3:00 PM on April 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


If I were on a plane where another passenger went berserk and tried to topen the doors, I would surreptitiously help myself to extra pretzels and peanuts (and maybe even a whole can of soda) while everyone else on board was distracted.
posted by TedW at 3:04 PM on April 22, 2006


Screw soda. I'd go for a margarita!
posted by brundlefly at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2006


I don't think they were overreacting then, but some of them are overreacting now. I've seen news comments like 'if he'd have managed to open the door, we'd all have died.' Well, there's no way he could have physically opened the door itself, so they can relax. He'd probably have had a better chance grabbing something pointy and trying to cut open the skin of the plane itself, or bashing out a window.

Still, if I'd have been there, I'd have absolutely freaked out at the time. The chance that I was on the one plane left in the world with an outward opening door would have seemed very, very real at that point.

From the account, it sounds to me like this was caused by a psychotic break and not related to any kind of terrorism. With the number of people flying, having some go crazy on planes is probably inevitable.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:53 PM on April 22, 2006


From one of the eywitness' other forum posts:

I am not too knowledgable on the equipment that was brought out but there was a large wedged shaped bright yellow armored looking vehicle that was brought out with personnel dressed in silver foil looking uniforms. There were several other van type vehicles along the route from the plane to the terminal. One appeared to have been opened up along the side with electronic equipment be used for some purpose.

What does this describe? Some sort of bomb detection equipment? Do they have these at all airports in the states?
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:04 PM on April 22, 2006


sounds like a fire engine - airport ones are often yellow, there's a modern model with a wedge shaped front that could match the description, and the silver uniforms are to reflect heat.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:23 PM on April 22, 2006


pictures
posted by andrew cooke at 5:26 PM on April 22, 2006


Screw soda. I'd go for a margarita!

do they serve shakes on a plane?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ha ha ha....yeah, over reacted. Perhaps the hysteria over the door by sofa-quarterbacks is something we can all debate, but I will be the first person to grab the nutjob by his head of head and punch him a good one if he has is hands on the door and is screaming gibberish. Why? Not because I believe the door will open but because he is not acting rationally (in a lmited space, flying 500 mph at an altitude of 40,000 feet.) We are all expected to be nice under these conditions and there is a thin line to cross to what is not nice. Screaming I want to die, going for the exit door, etc. is a big giant step across the line.

What chilled me was I was on the reverse flight earlier, Sac to Chicago and landed last night. Ugh.

As far as the bomb, doubtful these days...possible but doubtful. Nothing to be done about that though if one does make it onboard. The good news is at that airspeed your neck will snap and it's all over pretty quickly.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:40 PM on April 22, 2006


Thanks for the pictures Andrew; yeah, I wouldn't have guessed that was a fire engine either.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:06 PM on April 22, 2006


If anyone behaved like that on a flight I was on, I'd try to deck the fucker, no questions asked. We simply cannot afford to indulge these attention-seeking loonies any more.
posted by Decani at 6:59 PM on April 22, 2006


Several people have done this since 9/11, by the way. A guy was shot in Miami in the last 60 days or so running around a plane yelling about a bomb. Right after 9/11, some dude rushed the cockpit of a flight landing at O'Hare and was beaten and knocked out by passengers. I need to sleep otherwise I'd google 'em up.

Something about planes that really makes (already troubled) people lose it.
posted by Mid at 7:18 PM on April 22, 2006


Well, hell, planes nearly make me lose it, and I ain't that troubled. You're sitting uncomfortably close to a fuckton of strangers, in a litttle tin can that is incredibly isolated. It isn't the actual flying that freaks me out, it's the way commercial airlines do it.
posted by brundlefly at 7:37 PM on April 22, 2006


Overreaction, schmoverreation.

I'd be the first guy to tackle someone freaking out on a city bus, nevermind an aluminum tube hurtling through in the sky.

Besides the abject terror of someone ... ahem ... freaking out inside an aluminum tube hurtling through the sky, don't forget that the passengers might be doing this guy a favor in preventing him from hurting himself while he suffers his psychotic break.
posted by frogan at 8:40 PM on April 22, 2006


Jayder, you're right. It's infinitely preferable - especially in the wake of events such as this one - that people remain ignorant of reality. I'll know better next time.

Moronic. As if "reality" was a known value in this situation. It wasn't. The crew might have known that the man might not have been able to open the door, manually that is, but there was concern about a bomb, there was at least one possible accomplice in the brother/companion that the eyewitness writes about, possibly more individuals if it had been a plot, waiting, biding their time? Over-reaction my fucking ass. As others have noted, people have been killed for pulling this shit. Recently. This guy was lucky to make it out alive.
posted by kjh at 12:04 AM on April 23, 2006


Everyone in this thread is a "sofa-quarterback." I'd rather fly with the ones that aren't so quick on the trigger, though.
posted by moonbiter at 5:08 AM on April 23, 2006


Here is Edward Coburn, who rushed the cockpit of a flight landing at O'Hare in October 2001. Get this -- the flight attendants gave him a big injection of Benadryl, which I guess was in the plane's first-aid kit (which seems odd).

And this poor guy decided to rush the cockpit of a Southwest 737 in August 2000 and was killed by his fellow passengers as they restrained him by standing on his neck. That's pretty much an overreaction.
posted by Mid at 7:50 AM on April 23, 2006


big injection of Benadryl, which I guess was in the plane's first-aid kit (which seems odd).

injectable benadryl can save your life if you're having an allergic reaction, so it's not odd that it would be part of the on-board first aid kit. airline peanuts, etc. as an added benefit in this case, it tends to make one very drowsy.
posted by quonsar at 8:32 AM on April 23, 2006


From the account: (I am female and was terrified but would have been up there helping too if needed!)

Tee hee I'm just a girl and girls can't help! When one or two people are struggling with a disturbed individual it's okay to watch, slack-jawe! When I see someone lying facedown on the sidewalk or hear someone screaming rape I just keep walking because it's none of my business! I'm a coward and totally useless!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:38 AM on April 24, 2006


Uh hello? What was she supposed to do, exactly? You don't think that this particular job was more suited to the physically stronger of the sexes?
posted by agregoli at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2006


Two strong people and one weak person can restrain a struggling individual with greater effectiveness than two strong people alone, agregoli. In this case, there is no weakest link, and there aren't too many cooks. Grab an ankle, grab a wrist, sit on his head, punch him in the groin; it's all good. I have often seen people spectate serious situations in which more assistance is required; they will stare and talk to their companions and shuffle from foot to foot while real human beings try to make a difference. Someone's sex is not an excuse for cowardice.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:34 AM on April 24, 2006


She coulda stood on his neck.
posted by Mid at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2006


Well, considering there were plenty of other people there to restrain him that were stronger than her, she didn't need to help, did she? Or should've everyone run up there and shown off for you so you can be a judgemental asshole determine their value as humans?
posted by Snyder at 2:02 PM on April 24, 2006


Well, considering there were plenty of other people there to restrain him that were stronger than her, she didn't need to help, did she?

Here's a direct quote for the hard-of-reading: "Several other men in first and the first couple of rows in Economy started standing up saying "do you think they need more help?".........It appeared to me that the two guys holding him were starting to lose the battle and I yelled basically yes, they could use some more muscle. (I am female and was terrified but would have been up there helping too if needed!) About 3 more guys stood up and jumped to the front.

She should have gone over and helped instead of watching like a moron, or immediately turned to one of the men who were presumably also just watching, made eye contact with one at a time, and said clearly "you in the [item of clothing]; they need assistance" and given the appropriate orders. It works. I have high standards for people in emergency situations and I feel that we have not properly educated normal citizens in those procedures. There are quite a few people who are dead who would not be if 99% of us didn't look at our shoes and stick our thumbs up our asses while others need help.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:48 PM on April 24, 2006


I have high standards for people in emergency situations and I feel that we have not properly educated normal citizens in those procedures.

There are also people who have a "hero-complex," and will jump in to "help" regardless of their actual abilities, and in fact would be of more use sitting on their thumbs. I agree that more people should be trained to deal with high-stress emergency situations, I've been trained as an EMT-B myself. You and I live in a world where those skills are (fortunatly) not needed on a day-to-day basis for most people, so it's harsh to expect people to be ready for anything at a moment's notice, even if it is a good idea. Now, this situation was not one that required a lot of training, like a medical emergency, but this woman was not the only who could've helped. There were others who were ready and, just as importantly, able, and I'd generally prefer people who do not feel they have the cabapilites of handeling a situation to stand back, rather than dive in in a misguided desire to "do something."

As to "...turned to one of the men who were presumably also just watching, made eye contact with one at a time, and said clearly "you in the [item of clothing]; they need assistance" and given the appropriate orders," well, she did say she yelled "...basically yes, they could use some more muscle," and three guys jumped up to help, then nitpicking her method of delivery, command presence, and composure seems a bit irrelevant. Assuming she's not someone who's had any training in emergency situations, I think she did ok for herself, to criticize her for not acting like Johnny Rescue is needlesly hostile and Monday-morning quarterbacking.
posted by Snyder at 11:46 PM on April 24, 2006


Patrick Smith, of Salon's "Ask the pilot" discusses the United flight 735 incident.

I wonder if anyone will ever see this comment who didn't come here from the MetaTalk thread?
posted by buxtonbluecat at 11:09 AM on May 5, 2006


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