Report - December 17, 1997
Airline: Collaroy World Airlines
Flight No. 3491
Date of Departure: November 12, 1997
Sydney, New South Wales, AU
Destination: Los Angeles, California, USA
Robert Denman, history professor
Aeryn Sun, attendant, CWA
Rock Canyon # 12
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.