Foreign trespasser arrested for trying to climb on plane

China Airlines will add new Taipei-Mumbai-Amsterdam cargo route on Nov. 16. (Chen Chih-yu)
China Airlines will add new Taipei-Mumbai-Amsterdam cargo route on Nov. 16. (Chen Chih-yu)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A foreign trespasser was arrested Saturday at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport after trying to climb on a China Airlines (CAL) plane as it was taxiing toward the runway for takeoff, the airport authority said.

The unusual incident resulted in a three-hour delay of the CAL flight and caused a temporary shutdown of the airport’s south runway, but only a few other flights were briefly affected.

The man, whose identity remains unclear, was overpowered by airport personnel after he was spotted darting out from bushes on airport grounds and trying to climb on the landing gear of flight CI028 to Palau as the Boeing 737-800 jet was taxiing at 1:55 p.m.

The dramatic incident was first noticed by the pilot of an Asiana Airlines flight waiting behind the CAL flight for takeoff, who immediately informed the control tower, Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Co. (TIAC) said.

The CAL flight, scheduled to depart at 1:35 p.m., was delayed as the plane returned to the apron for a safety check and all 149 passengers were transferred to another airplane, which took off at 4:40 p.m., according to CAL and TIAC.

The south runway was closed between 1:55 p.m. and 4:22 p.m. as a result.

TIAC Senior Vice President Jerry Dann (但昭璧) said investigators are trying to determine the offender’s identity and motive.

He indicated that the man does not appear to speak English and is not a tourist, and he did not have any form of identification on him when he was arrested.

“It was the first time the airport had ever seen such an event,” Dann said.

The incident showed vulnerabilities in the airport’s security as no one is allowed to enter the taxiway without permission.

An intrusion from outside the airport was unlikely, particularly after the airport introduced electric fences to beef up its security network following a series of breaches of the airport’s perimeter in 2012.

There was speculation that the man could have gotten into the area from the construction site of Terminal 3, but the authorities have not reached any conclusions about how the incident happened.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)