Thurs "Herald Sun"
Horror at 30,000 feet
Date January 15th, 2004
Mid-air scare as woman strips on `flight from hell'
TERRIFIED airline passengers endured an hour-long tirade by a woman who stripped topless and shouted they would all die in a September 11-style tragedy.
A passenger on the Virgin Blue flight from Hobart to Melbourne last Thursday said it was the "flight from hell".
But the pilot on Flight DJ145, thanking passengers for their patience, passed it off as an "environmental anomaly".
The passenger, who wanted to be known only as Ally, described the ordeal as frightening.
"Everyone was pretty freaked out. By the time we landed, the whole plane applauded," she said. "We all got off and said, `That was the flight from hell '."
Ally said the woman should have been removed before the packed 737 crossed Bass Strait at 30,000ft.
"You could see that she was really nervous or something, and she just started freaking out a bit," said Ally, who was sitting opposite the woman. "We took off to taxi down to the runway and that's when she flipped out. "
Ally said the woman stood up, put her arms out and yelled: "Stop the plane, stop the plane -- get me off this plane. I've had a vision. I was in a backpacker's last night; you have got to listen to me. This is the next 9/11; we are all going to die. "
Ally, who was travelling with her partner and two children aged five and 10 months, said the flight attendant calmed the woman and settled her back in her seat.
"I said to the flight attendant, `She's freaking me out.' The flight attendant said: `We have to go; it's too much trouble to turn back'. "
After sitting on the tarmac for 10 minutes, the pilot decided to take off.
"They just made a huge mistake," Ally said. When the jet was airborne, the woman "flipped out" again, took off her top and bra, and yelled for the plane to stop.
"She just absolutely went psycho," Ally said.
"She was yelling, standing up, raising her arms.
"My initial thought was (she was a) female terrorist, suicide bomber kind of thing.
"She really didn't know what she was doing when we took off, and her mental state just got worse and worse as the plane was in the air. "
When the jet landed, Australian Protective Service officers boarded the plane and escorted the woman away.
It is understood the 23-year-old woman was released into the custody of her parents, who live in Melbourne. She has not been charged.
Virgin Blue spokeswoman Amanda Bolger confirmed the cabin supervisor consulted the captain before take-off and they agreed the woman was not a safety risk.
"We believe that despite this person's unusual behaviour, it did not affect the safety of passengers or the aircraft," she said.
"We appreciate that her behaviour may have upset guests seated near her.
"We also need to stipulate she wasn't aggressive; she wasn't threatening anybody or the aircraft. "
Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said it did not appear there was any threat to the safety of
"It sounds like someone was psychologically disturbed and caused a few problems on the flight," he said.
"The crew had to make a judgment and they made one."
A spokesman for Federal Transport Minister John Anderson said the situation was best judged by the crew.
Opposition transport spokesman Martin Ferguson urged the Department of Transport and Virgin Blue to discuss the incident to determine how best to deal with such passengers in the future