First the passenger got out of his seat.
Then he tried to bite a flight attendant.
Finally, Tu Lon Sein forced open the galley door of American Airlines flight 5242 on Thursday, and took flight himself ... landing on the tarmac of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Friday morning, Sein, 22, was in federal court, charged with assaulting/intimidating a flight crew member, a crime that carries up to 20 years in prison.
Nothing seemed out of order when the flight backed away from its gate and was waiting for the OK to begin heading toward the runway for takeoff to New Bern. All the passengers were seated, and the seatbelt signs were on.
That’s when a man, identified as Sein, got out of his seat and tried to open the main door to the aircraft, federal documents say. A flight attendant interceded. So did two passengers. Sein, however, tried to bite the attendant’s hand, then made his way to the galley.
There, he pried open the door, and jumped.
Two airport workers stopped Sein before he reached the active runway. He was taken back the airport and later transferred to Carolinas Medical Center for treatment.
He remains more than an enigma. His jail mugshot shows a young Asian man, with a sweep of unruly hair and a tattooed neck. According to federal affidavit filed with the case, Sein spoke little or no English. But U.S. air marshals say Sein seemed to understand the commands of the flight attendant as well as the safety requirements of passengers on commercial flights.
The affidavit says Sein entered the country through Newark, N.J., thus had gone through the drill on two other flights before launching himself from the plane on Thursday.