A Malaysia Airlines plane was forced to return to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport less than 30 minutes into a flight after a passenger allegedly tried to enter the cockpit.
One of the passengers on board told SBS World News he believed the man was carrying a “electronic frequency” device.
In a statement Malaysia Airlines said flight MH128 from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur returned to Melbourne shortly after takeoff late on Wednesday due to a “disruptive passenger”.
MH128 returned to Melbourne “after the operating captain was alerted by a cabin crew of a passenger attempting to enter the cockpit”.
The airline also stressed that at no point was the aircraft ‘hijacked’.
In air traffic control audio posted online, a male voice can be heard saying: “We have a passenger trying to enter the cockpit.”
About three minutes later the same male voice can be heard saying the passenger was “claiming to have an explosive device, tried to enter the cockpit, has been overpowered by passengers.”
“However we’d like to land and have the device checked,” the voice says.
Drew Ambrose was one of the passengers who helped to restrain the man. He told SBS World News the man was “erratic” and didn’t appear to have a plan.
“A guy ran to the cockpit. I heard him yelling at the flight attendant as the plane was talking off,” he said.
“He was carrying something. Then he came to the back of the plane. I asked the flight attendant if she needed help, and she said yes”
“I went to the back of the plane and he was on the floor. A guy had him in a choke hold and we all just restrained his legs. Then they restrained him with belts and put him at the back of the plane.”
Mr Ambrose said it took authorities an hour to check the plane.
“That was the nervous bit as I wasn’t sure what he had on board the plane, and he was still on the plane,” he said.
“Some people wanted to get off the plane because they were worried [a] bomb would go off.”
Passenger Andrew Leoncelli told Fairfax the man screamed: “I’ve got a bomb and I’m going to f***ing blow the plane up” before flight attendants and other passengers tackled and restrained him.
According to a report in Malaysia’s The Star, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ab Aziz Kaprawi said the disruptive passenger, thought to be a Sri Lankan national, was drunk.
The minister said the man was holding a “powerbank”, or phone charger, while Mr Leoncelli described it as a “giant black object.”
Photographs taken by other passengers aboard the flight showed heavily armed security personnel boarding the plane after its return to Melbourne.
The passenger was apprehended by airport security after the plane landed and was sent to a remote part of the airport.
Police said in a statement the man was speaking to investigators, after being subdued.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane was airborne for just 14 minutes.
The incident forced Melbourne Airport into lock down, with all other flights were diverted to Avalon, near Geelong.