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Virgin Australia plane forced to land

A drunk passenger has caused the closure of Bali's airport when a Virgin Australia pilot reported a hijacking attempt. Nine news.

PT1M43S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-379nu 620 349

The Queensland man who sparked a hijack scare at Bali airport on Friday has denied he was drunk and claimed instead that he believed the cockpit door was the entrance to the toilet.

Plumber Matthew Christopher Lockley, 28, is in police custody in Denpasar but has been moved to hospital after prompting an incident that temporarily closed the airport as the Indonesian military initiated hijack procedures.

Lockley, who was carrying Queensland government identification, a Licence to Perform High Risk Work, and a card from the Plumbing Industry Council, caused 13 flights to be diverted or delayed from the busy airport as weekend crowds flocked in.

Matt Lockley being arrested by Indonesian Air Force soldiers after landing on the Virgin Australia 737-800 plane at Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar.

Matthew Lockley was arrested by Indonesian Air Force soldiers after landing on the Virgin Australia 737-800 plane at Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar. Photo: AFP

He has told Bali police that he was coming to Indonesia to try to find his Indonesian wife. He insists he consumed no alcohol, and had only taken four Panadol, two Voltaren and drunk two Coca Colas at Brisbane airport before boarding flight VA41 to Bali.

Bali police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said Lockley had claimed in questioning overnight to have been asleep for most of the flight but, after being woken by the crew for a meal, came to believe he had lost his bag.

After talking to the woman in the neighbouring seat, he said the crew asked him to sit at the rear of the plane. He then decided he needed to go to the toilet.

Matthew Lockley. Inset: A photograph from his Facebook page.

Matthew Lockley. Inset: A photograph from his Facebook page.

“He thought the cockpit was the toilet — he thought he was banging on the door to the toilet,” Mr Hery said.
As the commotion prompted the pilot to issue a hijack alert, the crew grabbed Lockley and restrained him at the rear of the plane.

The alert went out at from the plane at 2.05pm local time (4.05pm AEDT), but questions remain why that alert remained active for the remaining 45 minutes of the flight.

Bali airforce commander Colonel Sugiharto said on Friday that, after the hijack alert was triggered, there was no further communication with the plane.

DENPASAR, BALI, INDONESIA - APRIL 25:  Australian Matt Christopher, (C), a passenger of Virgin Blue Australia Airplane, who is believed to have tried to enter the cockpit, is arrested by Indonesian millitary officers at International Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar on April 25, 2014 in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Early reports suggested an attempt to hijack a Virgin Australia had occured mid-flight, although Virgin has since clarified that the disturbance was caused by a drunk passenger acting aggressively and attempting to enter the cockpit.  (Photo by Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)

Lockley is believed to have tried to enter the cockpit, sparking a hijack scare.

When the Virgin flight landed at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport at 2.50pm local time, full hijack procedures were triggered on the ground. Even on the ground, though, airport authorities say it was 30 minutes before they could establish contact with the crew.

Eventually the plane was isolated off the runway and two heavily armed hijack teams led by the Indonesian mobile brigade were sent onto the flight to extract Lockley. The airport was meanwhile closed in the midst of the Friday afternoon rush, forcing seven flights to be diverted to Surabaya, East Java, one to the neighbouring island of Lombok. Five flights were prevented from taking off.

Hijack procedure dictated that all other passengers and the plane itself should be checked for explosives or weapons.

A photo of Matt Christopher Lockley taken by an Indonesian official, after he allegedly caused a hijacking scare on a flight bound for Bali.

A photo of Lockley taken by an Indonesian official, after he allegedly caused a hijacking scare on a flight bound for Bali. Photo: Amilia Rosa

As he was being removed from the flight, Lockley said in Indonesian language: “I am Indonesian”. Police say he has a rudimentary understanding of the language.

His fellow passengers applauded as he was led off the plane.

After questioning by police on Friday night, Lockley was sent to hospital.

“He’s still feeling disoriented. He’s not feeling well, that’s why he took the medicine in the first place,” Mr Hery said.

Lockley’s blood and urine have been sent to hospital for tests, and police are waiting for results in coming days before deciding if they will charge him with endangering flight safety.

Mr Hery said he would be detained in the meantime.

If he is charged, he can, under Indonesian law, be sentenced to up to two years prison or a 500 million rupiah (AUD$50,000) fine.

Police say Lockley was visited on Friday night by four or five friends, and that a representative of Australia’s consulate general in Bali.

The aircraft’s crew was also questioned by airport authorities, and will be requested to answer questions today by police.

Bali police have also released the names of the Virgin pilot, Neil Thomas Cooper, and co-pilot Ryan Richard Stockwell.