Alexander Michael Herrera of Arizona Tried to Open Jet Door on Descent to Portland, Oregon, FBI Says

Arizona resident Alexander Michael Herrera, 23, made "unusual statements" before trying to open a door in the emergency exit row of an Alaska Airlines jet preparing to land this morning in Portland, Oregon, the FBI says.

Herrera was one of 137 passengers on Flight 132, originating from Anchorage. After the airplane landed nine minutes behind schedule, Herrera was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center and likely will make an appearance in federal court on Tuesday, FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says.

The FBI can't release more info about the type of statements he made at this time, Steele says, adding that investigation is ongoing.

Witnesses interviewed by Portland news media tell of the airborne excitement as Herrera set off an alarm as he tried to open the door at about 5:20 a.m. and was held down by other passengers who restrained him with shoelaces and seat-belt extenders.

NBC affliate KGW reported:

"The woman next to the passenger said, 'Somebody please help,'" witness Henry Pignataro added. "I put him in a choke hold and brought him down to the ground."

Pignataro said he and another man held down the passenger, later identified as 23-year-old Alexander Michael Herrera, and asked the flight attendants whether they had any restraints. He said they brought three sets of shoelaces, which Pignataro and the other man used to bind Herrera's legs.

The flight attendants then brought extra seat belt extensions, and the witnesses used those to further restrain Herrera, Pignataro said.

Pignataro said Herrera was then put into a seat "where he was surrounded by big guys" and sat calmly until the plane landed safely.

Click here for KGW's report.

An Alaska Airlines spokeswoman told the Portland Oregonian that the emergency-exit doors have locks that cannot be opened mid-flight.

But even if that weren't the case, the fact that such doors typically first open inward before swinging out makes it impossible for them to be opened while the cabin is pressurized. According to an article on

It seems that a week can't go by without hearing the latest story about a passenger who went cuckoo and tried to yank open an emergency exit, only to be tackled and restrained by those around him, who thought they were on the verge of being ejected into the troposphere.

While the news never fails to report these events, it seldom mentions the most important fact: You cannot -- repeat, cannot -- open the doors or emergency hatches of an airplane in flight. You can't open them for the simple reason that cabin pressure won't allow it. Think of an aircraft door as a drain plug, fixed in place by the interior pressure.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.