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Passenger Tries to Open Plane Door at 36,000 Feet

A British plane passenger was being questioned by police Thursday after he tried to open the aircraft's doors at 36,000 feet.

The 22-year-old man was 45 minutes into a flight from the Spanish island of Majorca to Newcastle in northeastern England on Wednesday when he began pulling on the emergency doors shouting, "It's OK we are just on a simulator," passengers told the Newcastle Chronicle.

Cabin crew managed to restrain the heavily-built man and tie him up with eight seatbelts, while the pilot diverted the flight to London's Gatwick Airport.

The unnamed man, from the northeastern town of Ashington, was arrested by six police officers when the flight landed. He was being questioned Thursday on suspicion of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

A 28-year-old passenger, who did not want to be named, said, "Suddenly all the lights came on and all the air hostesses were shouting and we could see a lad trying to open the emergency door. The plane started shaking. I thought it was going to go down."

The passenger added, "His friends tried to pull him away from the door and he started punching them and saying, 'It's OK we are just on a simulator.' He was off his head. Then this other guy came from nowhere and smacked him in the head."

Another passenger, 20-year-old Dan Alberts, from Gateshead, northeastern England, said, "We just heard a big bang and then he started going for the door. I wasn't scared. I have never seen in-flight entertainment like it. But one of the girls I was with started having a panic attack and there were quite a few people crying."

A spokeswoman for Thomson Airways said, "In accordance with our procedures, the local authorities were notified of this incident and the aircraft was met by the police upon landing at Gatwick where the passenger was removed from the flight."

She added, "We would like to reassure customers that it would not have been possible for this passenger to open the aircraft door whilst the aircraft was in the air. We would also like to reassure our customers that incidents of this type are extremely rare."

A Sussex Police spokesman confirmed the man had been arrested and was being questioned.