Disoriented Passenger Trying To Open Door During Flight Prompts Emergency Landing

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence lately, but there seems to be an uptick in instances where people aboard planes — whether pilot, flight attendant or passenger — have disruptive episodes mid-flight. This latest brouhaha prompted a Philadelphia flight bound for Portland to make an emergency landing in Boston, after a passenger became unruly.

Unruly, and how: the Boston Herald says a male passenger tried to open an emergency door during a regional Air Wisconsin flight carrying 50 passengers. The “disoriented” man was restrained on the flight while it was being diverted, and was taken into custody by state police upon the emergency landing in Boston.

Passengers told the paper that the man got up from his seat and walked the few feet to the plane’s side emergency door, and pulled on one of the latches that opens the door. Passengers yelled to alert the flight attendant.

“I screamed. He was very unresponsive,” said one passenger, describing the man as “disoriented.”

“He didn’t know where he was. He was just talking in complete randomness. His eyes were very wide open,” she added.

A police statement says crew members prevented the man from continuing his efforts, and the captain declared an emergency, diverting the flight to Boston. The 40-year-old man was charged with interfering with a flight crew, state police said.

Passenger in custody after Philly flight diverted to Boston [Boston Herald]

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  1. Scribblenerd says:

    I hope they fed him first. This sounds like a classic case of diabetic hypoglycemia.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Or drugs, legal or not.

      • Scribblenerd says:

        My late husband was a Type I diabetic, and any disruption to his meal schedule could result in total disorientation. We had several “interesting” flights after the meal was delayed.

        • scoosdad says:

          That’s why the most important thing a diabetic carries in their carry-on bags is something substantial to eat. I bring enough to feed half the plane, usually. You never know how long you’ll end up sitting on the tarmac or stacked up waiting for a landing slot somewhere. I always stow it under the seat rather than in an overhead compartment too, because sometimes you’re not even allowed to unbuckle your seat belt to get out of your seat to reach it.

          • voogru says:

            Try getting food past the TSA you low-life terrorist.

            • smo0 says:

              you made me lol, thanks.

            • dks64 says:

              I’ve flown numerous times, each time with food in my bag. I’ve never had any problems at all.

            • Difdi says:

              I wear a photographer’s vest when traveling. No airline considers it to be any kind of carry-on, they regard it as a garment, so it doesn’t count against carry-on limits.

              I put a couple sandwiches, half a dozen energy bars and some beef jerky in the pockets. If I get hungry on the plane, I eat. The TSA has never had a problem with any of it.

            • Moosenogger says:

              TSA has no problem with food going through security. The only things they don’t allow (other than the obvious) are liquids.

    • krom says:

      Fed?

      They gave him a seat, an air nozzle, and an overhead light, and even let him store a bag in the cargo hold for 25 bucks. All that for $289! And you want them to give him FOOD now? Crazy entitlement world we live in these days.

      Yes, I’m being satirical again.

    • Mackinstyle1 says:

      Sounds like a classic case of over 5000 different things when you have almost no information on it.

      Also if you have any medical condition that’s your responsibility. You can bring as much food on the plane as you want.

  2. s25843 says:

    ” This latest brouhaha prompted a Philadelphia flight bound for Portland to make an emergency landing in Boston, after a passenger became unruly.”

    Its actually a Portland to Philly flight.

    • ptkdude says:

      I was concerned they were going to Portland the long way around. Even still, why would they divert to Boston? Isn’t that further from Portland than Philly? Oh wait… it must be Portland, Maine, not Oregon.

    • scoosdad says:

      A reader-commenter to this story in the Boston Globe this morning was actually complaining about all the flights like this being diverted to Boston lately, basically saying, “we’re not the only big airport in the vicinity that can deal with these kinds of emergencies– why are they always tying us up with this crap?”

      [shaking my head sadly]

  3. Magical Pig says:

    I love how they charge first ask questions later. If there was a genuine medical event and not drugsalcohol why are they charging him. It would be nice for a investigation to determine if charges are warranted. They may be or have been in this case but it seems like whenever it comes to incidents on airplanes the justice systems goes back asswards.

    • TerraSin says:

      This was my thought as well. According to the article, the guy had no idea where he was or what he was doing, so why is he automatically being charged with something? Guilty before proven innocent?

      While he may have been on something, he should only be charged after the facts have come out.

      • MrObvious says:

        No, you get charged first and then if you wish to contest the charges, you are innocent until proven guilty. Also if more information becomes available the charges could be dropped.

        However, just having a medical condition should not excuse all behavior either. If he isn’t taking adequate precautions due to his condition he should not be flying and held to some degree of responsibility too.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        I keep seeing this sentiment in the consumerist comments. It could not be any more incorrect. Innocent until proven guilty is a concept for the courts. Arrests are made on reasonable suspicion and to protect the safety of others. He was arrested and charges were filed. At this point he still has the presumption of innocence. No rights have been violated.

        • Free Legal Advice! says:

          Actually, arrests are made on probable cause. You get a pat down for weapons or a drug dog around your car with reasonable suspicion. You can also be detained for an unspecified period of time based on reasonable suspicion.

    • Scribblenerd says:

      My late husband was a Type I diabetic, and any disruption to his meal schedule could result in total disorientation. We had several “interesting” flights after the meal was delayed.

      • Costner says:

        I would think if it was that big of an issue that you might plan ahead and have snacks available rather than relying upon everyone else to be on a perfect schedule.

        For instance if I had a heart condition that required me to take a specific medication every day at 2:00pm or risk serious death (I know this is a bit of a stretch, but play along), I wouldn’t wait until I run out of pills and stroll in to Walgreens at 1:45 expecting to get my pills.

        If this event was unexpected and out of character that is one thing, but if it was due to this person failing to take medication and/or failing to eat it is still their fault and they should be held responsible.

      • scoosdad says:

        That’s why the most important thing a diabetic carries in their carry-on bags is something substantial to eat. I bring enough to feed half the plane, usually. You never know how long you’ll end up sitting on the tarmac or stacked up waiting for a landing slot somewhere. I always stow it under the seat rather than in an overhead compartment too, because sometimes you’re not even allowed to unbuckle your seat belt to get out of your seat to reach it.

    • gman863 says:

      It is perfectly acceptable for law enforcement to charge this man with a crime.

      He will have his day in court in which any medical evidence can be presented and weighed by a judge and/or jury.

      If we automatically assume anyone who tries to create danger for other passengers does so because of a medical condition, it’s a very slippery slope: Do you really want to open the door for the Al-Queda 9/11 masterminds currently on trial to claim they were “disoriented” when they came up with the plot to take down the World Trade Center?

      • Republicrat says:

        I’m not saying police didn’t do their job here, but it’s very easy for police to find out if someone is diabetic. You don’t need a protracted jury trial to investigate these facts.

  4. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    Do those doors really open if the plane is in flight, 20000 feet in the air?

    • Olivia Neutron-Bomb says:

      No.

    • duskglow says:

      No. As far as I know, it’s not possible to open a door in the air – the pressure difference is too great.

      • Chmeeee says:

        Wouldn’t the pressure difference push the door open, not hold it closed?

        • Anathema777 says:

          No; the pressure is coming from inside of the cabin and the doors are designed so that they have to be pulled inward first. So you’d have to be able to pull against all of the pressure inside of the cabin.

        • SavijMuhdrox says:

          the doors are designed to be bigger than the opening on the inside, so the greater air pressure inside the plane seals them shut. I think in order to open the door you have to overcome that pressure (i.e. pull it the door toward you somewhat) and thats just not going to happen.

        • Such an Interesting Monster says:

          Just a guess, but since the doors open outward you’d have to work against the force of the air moving by at 600 MPH.

          • Anathema777 says:

            The doors actually open inward first, so you have to fight against the pressure of the cabin. For emergency exits, you pull the door panel inward, and then turn it and toss it out of the plane. And while airplane doors (the ones used for boarding) often open outward, they have to be “popped” inward first as a safety measure.

    • Guppy06 says:

      Is it possible to open them? Yes. Without a hydraulic jack? No.

      Pounds-per-square-inch really add up.

    • MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

      No, it’s not possible. Just try it the next time you’re on an airplane, and you’ll see how hard it is.

    • Tunnen says:

      I guess if the cabin happened to be depressurized first, due to structural failure (broken window, hull crack, etc.) then you’d be able to open the door since there’d be none, or at least a lot less, differential pressure preventing the door from opening. But at that point of the game, I think you have bigger issues to worry about then someone trying to open the door mid-flight.

    • Santas Little Helper says:

      No the type of aircraft he was on it would be impossible to open the door (if they were at altitude). He could probably move the handle, which opens a small vent on the door, and it would make some noise and the plane would start to loose cabin pressure (slightly) but even so, unless the man was the hulk he would never get that door open.

  5. krom says:

    Sometimes the drugs that the puppet masters randomly spray on people at the airport to turn them into “terrorists” have unexpected side effects.

    Also, the drugs make you vulnerable to tazer fatality. So if your travel partner(s) notice you acting erratically or speaking in gibberish, make sure they restraint you before the cops try to nonchalantly electrocute you.

    And I’m being sardonic. Far fetched, obviously. But it would explain the uptick in ‘airplane psychosis,’ wouldn’t it? I suppose this is how conspiracy theories get started…

    • bhr says:

      Is it a real uptick or just an uptick in reports thanks to a combo of TSA/airline hatred, more news outlets and post 9/11 hysteria?

      I was on a flight in 1998-99 that had a guy absolutely lose it, threaten to kill the FAs, the whole thing. He was detained by the FAs with the help of a couple of passengers, tied into a seat (people cleared a row) and we landed without incident. No press, no news stories, no youtube video.

  6. krom says:

    BTW that’s Portland ME. AKA the _original_ Portland. Not Portland OR. Boston is en route in this case, not at all in the other.

    And I’ve been out west too long that I had to think about that for a sec.

  7. Razor512 says:

    sometimes on passenger planes, you will need to use the bathroom and it is usually hard to tell the difference between the small bathroom door, and the large door that has the cryptic symbols that look like “EXIT” and have bright colors and lights up and has the instructions on how to deploy the emergency slide.

    They need to do a better job at differentiating the bathroom door from the larger door with the wright colors and symbols and stuff.

  8. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    Wait a minute…Air Wisconsin? Are we sure this isn’t from The Onion?

    Maybe he didn’t get his in-flight frozen custard.

    • Tim says:

      Air Wisconsin is a “regional” airline, so it operates flights for major airlines using their branding, ticketing system, ground crew, etc. This appears to have been a flight branded as US Airways Express.

    • Scribblenerd says:

      My late husband was a Type I diabetic, and any disruption to his meal schedule could result in total disorientation. We had several “interesting” flights after the meal was delayed.

      • Costner says:

        Do you think it is necessary to add the same comment in response to numerous comments? A general rule to follow is if you have to cut and paste the same comment more than once… you’re doing it wrong.

        /snark

  9. BigHeadEd says:

    “interfering with a flight crew” seems to have become a catch-all for anybody that does anything on an airplane other than sit down, buckle up, shut up and switch off their electronics.

    • CubeRat says:

      Even then, it could be iffy. I was on a business flight with a co-worker and we were playing hangman – with pen and paper. As the plane was leaving the gate, she and I were laughing at the clue. A flight attendant came up and loudly said, ‘you ladies need to turn off your electronics now!’ – then looked down and saw the notepad. Neither of us said anything, the FA turned a bit pink and went back to their seat. The man in the seat next to us quietly said – “watch it, laughing will get you arrested”

  10. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Those little regional jets can be claustrophobic and noisy.

  11. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The “uptick in instances” correlates with the reduction in meals, snacks, and drinks that helped to keep passengers calm and distracted.

  12. zandar says:

    gotta be Ambien/Lunesta related.

  13. One-Eyed Jack says:

    Bath salts?

    • gman863 says:

      A definite possibility.

      A friend of mine’s husband did bath salts about a year ago. He just got sent back to the loony bin for the 4th time in the past six months for off-the-wall behavior very similar to what is decsribed here (albeit on the ground, not in the air).

      According to a show recently aired on NatGeo, the long-term damage from bath salts is still unknown. A few scientists think it could be as bad or worse than LSD.

  14. Doubting thomas says:

    For those blaming diabetes and hypoglycemia, so what?
    I also have been diagnosed as hypoglycemic, I also get cranky and irrational if I don’t eat. Once or twice I have reached the out of it stage where I am talking nonsense. But if i did it on an airplane it would be my own fault. I am aware of my condition and how it affects me so i keep food on me. Simple and easy. A couple of granola bars in my backpack and a few more stashed in my laptop bag. If I am traveling and out of my routine I make sure I have more and a wider variety of snacks.

    • Difdi says:

      I do the same thing, for the same reason. I wear a photographer’s vest, with the pockets filled with all the little widgets that are useful when traveling (passport, ID, money, ticket, sandwiches, energy bars, beef jerky, neck pillow, paperback book, etc, etc).

      The airlines consider it a garment, so it doesn’t count against any kind of carry-on limit. The TSA has never had a problem with it, as long as it doesn’t contain prohibited items (and since I pack it specifically for each trip, it never has had such items in it). Works very well.