NTSB Report - December 17, 1997

Passenger complaint # 1,638,745,923

Airline: Collaroy World Airlines

Flight No. 3491

Date of Departure: November 12, 1997

Departure: Sydney, New South Wales, AU

Destination: Los Angeles, California, USA


Robert Denman, history professor
2701 Sylvan Rd.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Aeryn Sun, attendant, CWA
230 Rock Canyon # 12
Sydney, NSW, AU

Incident Summary

Prepared by Martha Stephens, NTSB investigator:

Collaroy World Airlines flight 3491 departed Sydney International Airport at 8:20 am on November 12, 1997 with 310 passengers and 16 crew. Approximately 8 hours into the flight, CWA attendant Aeryn Sun received a report from one of the other attendants that a passenger in seat 43D was hoarding magazines. Aeryn Sun, the senior attendant on duty, approached passenger 43D -Robert Denman - and asked that he release some of the magazines to her for dispersal to other passengers. When 43D refused to comply, Aeryn Sun retreated to the crew quarters and assessed the situation with the aircraft's first officer, Alan Marley. The passenger's strange behavior was deemed not a threat to the aircraft. Officer Marley instructed attendant Sun to return to 43D and politely ask for the magazines, again. She was instructed that, under no circumstances, was she to forcibly remove the magazines from 43D.

Attendant Sun requested the magazines a second time. The exact details of what happened next are not clear. Some passengers report that attendant Sun became suspicious of what Mr. Denman was doing with the magazines and proceeded to remove them herself. Although Mr. Denman resisted attendant Sun, she was successful in removing the magazines from his possession. In so doing, she revealed that the passenger was smuggling a small, potted Eucalyptus tree - a violation of Australian law. Attendant Sun, apparently stunned by the stupidity of smuggling the endangered tree to Canada, became enraged with Mr. Denman. The following paragraph is Mr. Denman's account of what happened next:

"She kicked me...hard. Then she grabbed my plant and punched me in the gut with it. And she slammed my head against the bulkhead and threw me across the isle. Have never seen a person move as fast as she did - I never had a chance. When I was down on the ground, writhing in pain, she didn't let up. That woman sat on my chest, my neck crushed between her treelike legs, almost suffocating me. She told me to identify the plant immediately or she would throw me out of the plane. It was the most terrifying experience of my life," claimed Mr. Denman who is currently suing CWA for 50 million dollars.

The unusual incident, and subsequent passenger riot it caused on the aircraft, has been blamed on attendant Sun's overreaction to a simple plant smuggling. The purpose of this investigation is to reveal the truth about what happened. As part of the investigation I conducted a thorough background check and interview of attendant Sun.

My investigation of Sun's background revealed a person whose reputation as a calm, friendly and professional aviation attendant was well known within CWA. In interviews with coworkers and supervisors, the terms "bubbly" and "perky" came up most often when describing attendant Sun's personality. However, that is not the impression I received during my in-person interview. I found attendant Sun to be quite hostile to my questions, repeatedly referring to me as a "lower life form" and my laptop computer as "retrograde technology." She indicated an acceptance of violent actions to achieve her goals, even if it meant "squashing" the passengers. It is relevant to add that her knuckles showed signs of recent bruising, as if she had been punching a wall, or something. Frankly, I found the interview experience to be quite unsettling and was glad when it was over.


Her unwillingness to describe in detail the incident on board the aircraft to this agency or Australian authorities, along with her hostile attitude toward the investigator, leave me no choice but to recommend attendant Aeryn Sun be permanently banned from passenger aircraft service. Her demeanor might be of some use to the military or a Greek bulk shipping operation. I would also suggest she consider anger management therapy at her earliest convenience.

End of report.


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