Buckhead man tries to open door during Delta flight

A Delta Air Lines flight from Las Vegas was grounded Sunday afternoon when a man from the Buckhead area of Atlanta, returning home, tried to open the cabin door while in flight, officials said.

"We had an unruly passenger," Delta spokesman Anthony Black said.

The incident unnerved many people on board, one passenger said.

“For two or three minutes, it was very scary,” said Katie Hindman, who was flying back to Atlanta from vacation.

Richard Joel Garber, 60, was charged with crimes aboard an aircraft and felony interfering with a flight crew, both federal offenses.

Around 1:50 p.m., Transportation Security Administration was notified that Garber became disruptive on board Flight 1702, TSA spokesman Jon Allen said.

About an hour into the flight, FBI spokesman Patrick Turner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via email that Garber, who was sitting in one of the emergency exit seats, tried to open the emergency latch to the door over the wing.

Hindman said the plane was at a cruising altitude of more than 30,000 feet when the incident occurred. She was seated several rows behind the aisle where Garber was seated, but could see a crowd gathered around him.

“It seemed that he retreated, and the passengers backed off,” Hindman said. “But he made a second run for it, and a big group of guys tackled him.”

She said Garber was on the ground for about 40 minutes as passengers subdued him and the plane returned to its departure point.

“I thought Delta handled the situation really well,” Hindman said. “They struck a good balance of being professional and at the same time letting passengers know what was going on.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the emergency doors won’t open while the cabin is pressurized in flight.

The flight returned safely to McCarran International Airport, where Garber was arrested by the FBI, Turner said.

The plane took off again, arriving in Atlanta at 7:05 p.m.

Garber was held at Henderson Detention Center in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas, and appeared Monday afternoon before a U.S. Magistrate. Turner said Garber will be released with the condition that he doesn’t travel by air until his case is resolved.