Qantas has stepped up security
since 911

The 40-year-old man attacked the crew with sharp wooden implements, possibly chopsticks.

 

The ordeal happened soon after the Boeing 717 with 47 passengers and six crew left the southern city of Melbourne Thursday morning for the island state of Tasmania.

   

Passengers and crew wrestled the man to the floor before he could reach the cockpit of the 118-seat plane.

 

In the melee, a 38-year-old male flight attendant received a gash on the back of his head and a 25-year-old female attendant suffered facial cuts. They were attacked with two sharp wooden sticks around 15 cm long.

   

"We believe he was trying to take over the plane," Australian Federal Police Agent Stephen Cato said.

   

Qantas and government officials said it did not appear the incident on flight QF1737 was a premeditated attempt to commit an act of “terror”.

   

Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said it did not appear to be an act of “terrorism”. 

 

Motives unclear

 

“It was an act by an individual who was less than stable. He apparently headed for the cabin and seemed to be intent upon trying to force a nasty outcome," Anderson said.

 

Police were questioning the man, who is an Australian resident. 

 

Australia has been on heightened alert since the 11 September 2001 attacks in Washington and New York and the Bali bombings in October 2002, in which 90 Australians were killed.

   

The minister said no banned weapon or potential weapon had been smuggled into the aircraft. There may be lessons to learn about unforeseen tools being used, he said.

   

In December 2000, a Kenyan also described as mentally unbalanced, managed to enter the cockpit of a British Airways jet flying from London to Nairobi and wrestle the controls from the pilot.

   

The plane plunged thousands of metres and nearly crashed before the crew managed to regain control.