A man has been reportedly arrested by Mexican police after managing to open an exit and deploy the emergency slide on an Airbus A320 as it prepared for takeoff. The man, who has not yet been named, apparently became “panicked” as the plane was taxiing on the runway and jumped up from his seat and forced open the exit on the front, left-hand side of the aircraft.
The incident is said to have occurred yesterday on what should have been a two-hour flight between Cancun and Monterrey, operated by Mexican low-cost airline Interjet. Passengers on flight 321 were delayed by four hours as authorities dealt with the situation, although it’s not known whether Interjet operated the flight on the same plane or managed to source a replacement aircraft.
It’s also not yet known what caused the male passenger to panic and operate the emergency slide but he’ll likely have to provide an account in court after being arrested by police. Sources suggest the man might face a prison sentence, as well as being made to pay monetary damages to Interjet.
The cost to replace an emergency slide on an Airbus A320 single-aisle aircraft is believed to cost between $25,000 – $30,000.
According to a Spanish-language aviation news site, the man panicked while the plane was rolling along the taxiway, got up from his seat and charged towards the front door while shouting that he wanted to leave. The man succeeded in opening the door but cabin crew managed to calm him down before he jumped on the slide.
The plane was then towed to the terminal where passengers were allowed to disembark.
It’s a well-known fact that it’s impossible to open a plane door at altitude but some aircraft models, like the Boeing 777 for example, also have a flight lock on doors that prevent them from being opened when the plane reaches a certain speed – even if it’s still on the ground.
But while it might not always be possible to open an aircraft door, that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous. Trying to force the door lever can cause severe damage to both the door and the emergency slide – meaning that in the event of an emergency, an exit might not be usable.
Interjet has not commented on the incident. The low-cost carrier started flying in December 2005 and now operates a fleet of 81 mostly Airbus A320-family aircraft. The Mexican airline flies to a total of 55 destinations, including 20 international airports.