A MALAYSIA AIRLINES flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur returned to the Australian airport shortly after take-off late on Wednesday after a passenger attempted to enter the cockpit, authorities said.
Flight MH128 passengers and crew tackled the man and tied him up with seat belts until the flight landed, one witness told Reuters.
The plane landed safely and the man was apprehended by airport security, said Malaysia Airlines, which is still recovering from two major disasters in recent years.
Police said the incident was not terrorism-related and a 25-year old man, understood to be an Australian citizen, had been taken into custody.
“It was an isolated incident and we believe he suffers from a mental illness,” Superintendent Michael Goode of the Australian Federal Police told reporters on Thursday.
A passenger, Arif Chaudhery, told Reuters about 30 minutes into the flight, a male passenger attacked a female crew member who screamed out for help.
“Some passengers and crew grabbed the man and tackled him to the floor,” Chaudhery said. “We were very lucky. It could have been worse.”
Armed security personnel entered the plane to remove the man and escort other passengers off the aircraft, he said.
The airline stressed the flight had not at any point been hijacked.
Flight MH128 returned to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport “after the operating captain was alerted by a cabin crew of a passenger attempting to enter the cockpit”, the airline said in a statement. It had departed at 11.11pm Melbourne time and returned at 11.41pm
“Malaysia Airlines together with the Australian authorities will be investigating the incident,” the statement said.
Aircraft tracking website Flightradar said flights bound for Melbourne had been diverted to other airports because of the incident.
The Tullamarine airport was briefly closed during the incident, but has since reopened, airport authorities said.
In 2014, Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 went missing – with 239 people on board – on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The Boeing 777 plane has yet to be found and its location is one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries. The deep-sea search for the missing plane was called off in January.
Soon after MH370 went missing, Flight MH17, travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down in eastern Ukraine, killing all on board.
The airline has struggled to recover from the twin tragedies, having to cut staff and restructure its business as passenger numbers fell. – Reuters