17 Year Old Boy Opens Emergency Exit, Slides Down Wing Onto Tarmac in San Francisco

Flight attendants occasionally ‘peace out’ this way. First-time flyers in China sometimes do it too. If you’re frustrated waiting for a gate or evading immigration authorities it may seem like a good idea to make your own exit from a plane.

But as a 17 year old boy learned yesterday, it’s never actually a good idea. They boy was onboard Star Alliance airline Copa’s flight CM208 from Panama City to San Francisco. He opened an aircraft door, slid down the wing, and jumped down onto the tarmac after arrival.

An airfield construction crew working nearby confronted the boy and held him until police arrived and arrested him. He was not injured, Yakel said.

Passengers said the teen seemed fidgety and anxious throughout the flight, and acted so quickly no one had a chance to stop him.

The teen opened the over wing emergency exit and jumped onto runway 28L. The passenger had been siting in the exit row.

Here’s the open emergency exit:

According to Copa, a “crew member closed the exit door, and the aircraft proceeded to the gate where all other passengers and crew disembarked safely. The passenger has been taken into custody by law enforcement.”

However passengers (far more plausibly) report that it wasn’t possible to just ‘close the exit door’ and instead “a flight attendant blocked the gap with her body as the plane continued to the gate.” Police came onboard, and the aircraft was said to be “on the runway for about an hour.”

Here’s the plane finally at the gate.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “… According to Copa, a “crew member closed the exit door, and the aircraft proceeded to the gate where all other passengers and crew disembarked safely”
    Well why wouldn’t they be able to disembark safely. Seems a bit dramatic.

  2. It may have been a combination of both. I was on an AA plane where there was a mechanical issue (at the gate). The mechanic ultimately popped open the exit door of the 737-800 (its on hinges and swings up), made his fix and then the door was pushed back down and closed. Granted we were at the gate and there was a mechanic on the outside on a ladder helping close the door but the whole process seemed super simple.

    So, I could see the flight attendant closing the door (hatch is more appropriate I think) and then standing there in case it reopened or to discourage more people from exiting that way.

  3. The 17-year-old probably forgot to pick up his carry-on and checked passenger baggage. Copa Airlines does not have a 20-minute baggage guarantee like Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines.

    Alaska Airlines writes, “Since 2010 we have put a guarantee behind our baggage delivery. If your bags are not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane’s arrival at the gate, we’ll offer you a $25 discount code for use on a future Alaska Airlines flight, or 2,500 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™ bonus miles.” https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/baggage/baggage-claim/20-minute-guarantee.aspx

  4. Wow.. that video is very impressive. I can’t believe the drama that unfolded in that 30 second video –
    definitely (not) worth watching.

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