Passengers on a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Albury jumped 1.2 metres from the plane onto the tarmac after being told to “get out and run, run, run” as soon as the plane landed, News.com.au reported.
A passenger on the 8.05am flight told AAP that passengers were urgently evacuated as soon as the plane landed at Albury Airport on Tuesday morning.
The doors of the plane were said to be “ripped off” and passengers were told to leave their luggage.
A male passenger on the 68-seater turboprop was arrested on the tarmac and taken away by police.
Sydney retiree Wendy Willett, who was sitting in the aisle opposite the man, described the ordeal as “terrifying”.
Ms Willett, who was flying to Albury to visit family, said the passengers didn’t notice anything was wrong until the plane landed and they saw swarms of police.
“People were making a few comments like “who’s been a naughty boy,” but then the air hostess started shouting to jump out the windows and run,” Ms Willett told The Daily Telegraph.
It was really scary, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to jump, but they said the police would help and catch us, which they did. There was another older woman and she looked really shaken up.”
Ms Willett said the man had jumped out of the plane with the rest of the passengers.
“As soon as we were out the police tackled the man and shoved him against the fence and cuffed him.
“He kind of gave them a shrug, like he was saying “what I have I done”, but didn’t resist arrest.
“The police did an excellent job they were very quick and assured us afterwards.
“You could hear the fear in the air hostess’ voice when she yelled, but she was very calm.”
Ms Willett said the man had spent most of the plane reading and had been behaving normally.
“He looked like he might have been a tradie,” she said.
Virgin Australia said that it was a passenger who said “get out and run, run, run” and rather than wait for the stairs, those on board jumped down to the tarmac.
NSW Police confirmed there had been an incident at the airport and the passengers were assembled on the tarmac where a man wearing a red jacket and red hat was arrested based on information provided by the cabin crew.
“The man didn’t seem to resist the arrest,” another passenger told AAP.
Police asked the passengers — there were 42 on board — if anyone had any issues with the man and spoke to the people who had been seated near him.
The arrested passenger was said to be calm throughout the flight and got up and went to the bathroom once.
News Corp Australia understands the man left a one-word threat on a note in the bathroom, which was found just prior to landing at 9.35am.
The contents of the note are under investigation but it is believed to have contained a bomb threat. The Australian reported that he allegedly wrote the threat on the sick bag provided in his seat, stating there was a ‘bomb’.
“Virgin Australia flight VA1174 from Sydney to Albury landed safely this morning. Due to a security incident on board police met the aircraft on arrival. One passenger is assisting police with their enquiries. The matter is now in the hands of the New South Wales police,” Virgin said in a statement.
A spokeswoman said a full search of the aircraft was conducted by police and the plane cleared of any potential danger.
The incident comes less than a week after a Malaysia Airlines flight was forced to return to Melbourne after a man demanded to see the pilot and threatened to explode a device he claimed was a bomb.
Passengers restrained the man, and removed the device, a bluetooth speaker, from his possession.
The A330 landed safely, but passengers then had to wait 90 minutes for police to board and arrest the man, who had recently been released from a psychiatric hospital.
The wait has been criticised by aviation experts who said getting passengers off the plane should have been the first priority after landing.
Michelle McNamara, who works for a car hire company in the Albury airport terminal, said plain-clothed police, uniformed officers, firefighters and ambulance crews closed off half the terminal during the operation.
“It’s normally quiet, it’s Albury Airport,” she told AAP.
“It’s a bit concerning. With all that’s happening in the world it makes you think the worst.”