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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Unruly passenger sentenced to one year in prison for opening plane door in flight

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For interfering with the flight crew, an intoxicated and belligerent rowdy passenger who physically managed to open the outer aircraft door of a United Express jet in the final seconds before landing was sentenced to just one year in prison. The maximum penalty is a 20-year prison sentence and a $200,000 fine.

Kameron C. Stone, 30, of Fairfax, Virginia, was sentenced on Monday, and he was also fined $7,500 and forced to serve three years of supervised release. The Transportation Security Administration has imposed a separate sanction on Stone (TSA).

The pilots of the Embraer E45 regional jet operated by CommutAir on behalf of United Express were forced to declare an emergency with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after Stone attempted to open the aircraft door.

A flight attendant, two passengers, and an off-duty U.S. Marshal held Stone and pulled him back from the door.

Following the serious April 16, 2021 incident, Stone negotiated a plea deal with authorities in February, admitting to two charges of interfering with flight crew and assault.

Stone was “loud and obnoxious” during the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Dulles to Pensacola, Florida, according to witnesses, and he smelled heavily of alcohol. Stone harassed other passengers verbally and with his ‘finger guns,’ forcing a flight attendant to scold him regularly.

At one point, Stone got up from his seat and reached for the cockpit door, saying: “I’m trying to get out of here”. The flight attendant blocked the door and ordered Stone to take his seat.

Stone rose up and approached the cockpit once more during the final descent into Pensacola. The flight attendant attempted to stop him, but he collided with her, shoved and grabbed her, and then slammed her head into the galley wall.

He then managed to partially open the main cabin door, causing an emergency landing and an alarm in the cockpit. The flight attendant desperately clutched Stone’s hand to keep him from fully opening the door, yelling “shut the door!” as she yanked on the door handle.

Three people leaped from their seats and jumped on Stone, holding him down until law enforcement arrived.

According to US Attorney Jason R. Coody, the flight attendant’s fast thinking prevented a potentially dangerous situation.

“Given the swift actions of the flight attendant, passengers and a Deputy United States Marshal, an incredibly dangerous situation was averted,” Coody said.

“Perilous acts such as this will be investigated by our law enforcement partners and vigorously prosecuted by this office.”

Cabin doors on certain newer jets include ‘flight locks,’ which physically lock the door when the plane reaches a specific speed. Because of the pressurization of the airplane, it is hard to open a cabin door at altitude in any event, but this has less of an effect in the final stages of a flight when the aircraft is close to the ground.

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