Written by By Laura Vallejo, CNN
It was barely past midnight Tuesday when a man reported that he had just jumped out of a plane before it departed for San Francisco. Sky Harbor International Airport personnel, via an open-air phone tower, received the report, and ground traffic controllers overflew the plane at twice the cruising altitude. They knew there were people onboard, and they knew there were people in the plane, but they could not see who they were.
By 1:05 a.m., a Piper PA-34 plane — carrying three passengers and a flight attendant — was headed north. Phoenix police had been alerted, and to guide them to the plane they tried tracking its signals via GPS and radio communication.
After a short radio communication, the plane’s transponder went silent, apparently after the man slipped out of a security door and ran across the tarmac, said spokeswoman for Phoenix Fire, Jennifer Finch.
The Phoenix Police Department found the man in a nearby parking lot. He told officers that he didn’t know how he got loose from the plane and that he didn’t have a weapon. Authorities said he was not considered a threat, but as a precaution he was taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation,
A Southwest Airlines spokesman said the plane did not leave out of terminal 1 on its way to San Francisco. Rather, the plane, on its way from Phoenix to San Francisco, had an unscheduled stop in Orlando, Florida, that would only have been in the schedule during the overnight hours.