Australian aviation authorities launched an investigation on Thursday after a man believed to be a U.S. citizen jumped from a plane as it prepared to take off.
New South Wales Police said the 33-year-old businessman opened the door of the SAAB 340 twin turbo aircraft as it stood on the runway at a small regional airport in Merimbula, some 300 miles (500 kilometers) south of Sydney.
The pilot immediately shut the engine down. Regional Express, the airline operating the flight from Merimbula to Melbourne, said the man had become "frightened once the cabin was secured and the right engine was being started."
The airline said in a statement that the plane was stationary on the tarmac at the time.
Police released the man without charge. But the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it was investigating whether the man, who has not been named, had endangered the safety of the aircraft, an offense which carries a fine of up to 5,500 Australian dollars (US$4,200; euro3,350.)
Peter Gibson, a spokesman for the authority, said it was not immediately clear why the man jumped from the plane. "We can bring charges, but we have to take into account the circumstances," he said. "We are in touch with the police."
The airline said its staff "apprehended and calmed the passenger" until police arrived at the airport and took him into custody. The company stressed that the door could only be opened before the cabin was pressurized. "Hence such an incident could not happen while the plane is in the air or taxiing on the runway," the airline said in a statement.
Police said the man was taken to a local hospital for a check up but was not injured.
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