There are some people who are absolutely phobic about flying – whether it’s being pawed down by TSA or the unnatural sensation of soaring and speeding miles over the earth, but one of the worst possible fears is to have someone try and pry open the emergency exit while in-flight.
That was the case for 137 passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight 132 traveling from Anchorage to Portland early Monday, when 23-year-old Alexander Michael Herrera attempted to open the emergency exit as the craft descended into the Portland International Airport.
NBC Portland affiliate KGW reported how a panic erupted when a woman sitting next to the perpetrator in the exit row began to scream. She pled for help as Herrera began to open the emergency exit. According to the report, Hendry Pignataro, seated three rows back, responded to the commotion and put Herrera into a chokehold.
Thankfully passengers managed to subdue the suspect, wrestling him into the aisle, and restrained Herrera using seatbelts and shoestrings. He was significantly calmer after the ordeal was over.
Once the flight successfully landed, Herrera was taken into custody by the Portland Police Officers and handed over to the FBI. He will be charged with interfering with the directive of the flight crew and is expected to be in court Tuesday.
At this point, it is unclear why the suspect attempted to remove the door, but none of the passengers were harmed in the incident.
To put a traveler’s mind at ease, Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot” blog reports, the most important fact is “You cannot – repeat, cannot open the doors or emergency hatches of an airplane in-flight. You can’t open them for the simple reason that cabin pressure won’t allow it.”
Smith further expounds on comparing the interior fuselage of an aircraft and the door to that of a drain plug, fixed in place by pressure. As almost all aircraft exits open inward and retract upward into the ceiling or swing outward, even the most muscle-bound human cannot overcome the force holding them shut.
At cruising altitude, there can be as much as 1,000 pounds of pressure against each square foot of the door. In addition, the doors are held secure by a series of electrical and/or mechanical latches. The writer urges against trying to test this theory, unless someone wishes to be pummeled and choked out by panicked passengers, as was the case on flight 132.
[Image via Shutterstock]