The taped-off emergency exit door of the Asiana aircraft on May 26 (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport estimates the repair cost of an Asiana Airlines aircraft that was forced open by a passenger mid-air, to be about 640 million won ($494,000), according to data released by a lawmaker Friday.
In its interim probe, the ministry found the aircraft involved in the incident suffered damages to three areas, the emergency door and slides, according to data from the Transport Ministry received by office of Rep. Jang Chul-min of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea,
The incident occurred on May 26 at 12:37 p.m., as the plane was flying from Jeju Island to Daegu. A male passenger in his 30s illegally opened the emergency exit door while the aircraft was preparing for landing, just 200 meters above ground.
The man attempted to unbuckle his seat belt and jump out, but was restrained by the flight attendants and other passengers, according to authorities. The man was seated close to the emergency exit and was able to open the door without unfastening his seat belt.
Temporary repairs were carried out immediately at Daegu Airport shortly after the incident, and the aircraft has been relocated to Incheon Airport on May 30 for further repairs.
After landing, the man reportedly confessed the crime to a member of Asiana Airlines' ground staff. Following the police investigation, the man was arrested and charged with violating aviation security laws and causing property damage, Friday.
On how the door opened during the flight, an official from the ministry explained that the emergency exit can be opened with force when the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the aircraft is low.
Unlike certain aircraft models like the B787, which have an automatic lock feature for emergency exits after takeoff, the A321 model involved in the incident does not have such a feature, the official added.
The ministry said it has informed the United States Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency of the incident, and also filed a request to consider implementing a warning sound when the lever cover of an emergency exit is opened during flight.
To prevent similar incidents in the future, the ministry said it also requested a review on the seat installation regulations, as passengers in close proximity to emergency exits can access the door even when their safety belts are fastened.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)