A California man was charged Thursday after opening the emergency exit of a moving plane at O’Hare International Airport earlier in the day and stepping on the plane’s wing.
Randy Frank Davila, 57, has been charged with one count of careless driving, police say, and is due in court at 9 a.m. on June 27.
United Airlines officials confirmed the incident happened on flight 2874 from San Diego to Chicago.
The plane was approaching a gate when the person used the emergency exit to walk onto the wing around 4:30 a.m., Chicago police said.
The passenger then slid down the wing and onto the airfield, police said.
A recording obtained by NBC 5 from air traffic control can be heard saying “We had to pull over before we gave Bravo 3. Someone shot the rear right over the wing exit. Someone one in seat 21 Bravo has exited the plane and is on the ramp.”
Cellphone video taken from the plane shows a row of three seats with the emergency exit door open. One passenger is seated in the center seat and another is seated in the aisle seat.
“Our ground crew arrested the individual outside of the aircraft, and the individual is now with law enforcement,” United Airlines said in a statement.
“The aircraft then arrived at the gate and all passengers disembarked safely. The safety of our customers and crew is our top priority.”
Officers arrived at the scene and took the person into custody, police said.
One person was arrested on Thursday and charges were pending.
Aviation safety expert Jeff Price said that while rare, such incidents have happened before.
“Although rare, these doors are designed to be opened and there is really nothing stopping anyone from doing so while the plane is on the ground, other than other passengers or flight attendants. Just as it is difficult to ‘prevent someone from walking through a fire alarm building door,’ Price said in a statement.
“I think everyone was a little surprised and kind of going, did we really see what we saw?” said Mary Ellen Eagelston, director of NBC 7 San Diego and a passenger on the plane arriving in the Chicago area.
Eagelston took video footage of the incident on board, which shows the plane’s open emergency door.
“I just saw him coming out and that was it,” Eagelston said. “I guess he landed on the wing and jumped on the tarmac or slid on the tarmac.”
Dispatchers were also heard on the radio, stunned by the event.
“He jumped out of a plane?” asked an officer.
“He opened the door,” the dispatcher said. “We filmed him. It looks like he opened a rear door of the plane and walked to the wing.”
At the start of her Mother’s Day trip to Illinois, Eagelston said the flight crew handled the situation well, nothing “there was no panic.”
“There was no concern,” she said. “I felt like we were in good hands.”
The Chicago Sun-Times wire contributed to this report.