This is the dramatic moment a passenger is arrested in Bali after allegedly sparking a hijack scare on a Virgin Australia flight when he tried to break into the cockpit. Matt Christopher Lockley was hauled off the Boeing 737-800 by Indonesian police and armed troops after the jet was forced to make an emergency landing.
The 28-year-old Australian is accused of drunkenly hammering on the cockpit door, forcing the pilot to send a mayday signal that he feared the plane was being hijacked. He was handcuffed by the crew mid-air and placed in a seat at the back of the plane before being arrested when the jet touched down at the Indonesian island’s Denpasar airport. Identification shown by the Indonesian authorities reveal he has a driving licence issued by the Queensland government, a licence to perform high-risk work and a Plumbing Industry Council card.
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Suhardi Alius, a police official in Jakarta said: ‘The suspect is being interrogated by police in Bali.’
Palani Mohan, a passenger on a Garuda flight that was about to take off from Bali, earlier described events when the plane made the emergency landing.
He said: ‘The captain of my plane made an announcement saying we were delayed indefinitely because a hijack was going on in Bali airport, about 150 metres away from us.
‘I saw at least five vehicles including military-style trucks, filled with men in uniform, rushing towards the plane.
‘Then the Virgin plane taxied away, followed by the convoy of security forces. The flight attendant said it’s been taken off to a different part of the airport. Bali airport seems to be in lockdown, we’ve been told no planes will be departing or arriving. The pilot’s not allowing anyone off our plane.’ An hour before landing in Bali, the pilot alerted traffic controllers of a possible hijacking on board, an Indonesian air force spokesman said.
But Heru Sudjatmiko, a Virgin Australia official on the Indonesian resort island, later said: ‘This is no hijacking, this is a miscommunication. What happened was there was a drunk person… too much alcohol consumption caused him to act aggressively.’
The 137 passengers and six crew members were unharmed. ‘The aircraft landed safely and at no point was the safety of passengers in question,’ an airline spokeswoman said in Australia. Airport operations in Bali have returned to normal, an airport official said. Earlier, Indonesia’s Metro TV had cited an Indonesian air force spokesman as saying the plane had been hijacked.
Hadi Tjahjanto told the television station: ‘We got information that a 737-800 from Brisbane to Bali has been hijacked. The pilot indicated that the plane has been hijacked,’ senior transport ministry official Harry Bhakti said on MetroTV. There’s an information that a passenger tried to get into a cockpit, we are investigating.’ The airport was shut down for a time but after the Virgin plane was taken off the tarmac flights resumed.
Virgin Blue Airlines, also known as Virgin Australia, is the country’s second largest airline.
Started in 2000 with just two planes, within a decade it was expanded to serve 29 cities in Australia and destinations in New Zealand as well as Bali in Indonesian, Phuket in Thailand, Abu Dhabi in the UAE and Los Angeles.
Based in Brisbane, it was set up Sir Richard Branson and Brett Godfrey. The drama comes after the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane MH370 which is thought to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.