SALT LAKE CITY A Ukrainian man who told the FBI he had been drinking heavily for 50 days before causing a major ruckus on a flight to Salt Lake City pleaded guilty during a plea hearing in federal court Monday.
Anatoliy Baranovich, of Portland, pleaded guilty to interfering with a flight crew as part of a deal with prosecutors. He could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Baranovich yelled in Russian about a wing being on fire and tried to open an emergency door on the Delta Air Lines flight from Boston in October 2012, an FBI affidavit said.
He is charged with damaging an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, trying to bribe federal agents and resisting arrest. He has pleaded not guilty.
Baranovich told authorities he traveled to Ukraine to build a house, but began getting drunk when he was unable to begin construction.
I never sobered up, Baranovich told an FBI investigator after the incident.
He continued drinking as he flew from Ukraine to Amsterdam and on to Boston. He was asleep during most of the flight to Salt Lake City but awoke as the plane was descending and began yelling in Russian that he thought the wing was on fire, prosecutors say in charging documents.
After the plane landed, Baranovich ran to the back and tried to pry open the exit door as flight attendants yelled at him to stop. The door jammed and caused an emergency inflatable slide to malfunction, which caused extensive damage to the plane's fuselage, the FBI said.
Several passengers tried to wrestle Baranovich to the ground while he attempted to open another emergency exit door.
One passenger forced him to the ground and held him until the plane taxied to a gate, where law enforcement and medical personnel had been called.
Baranovich offered federal agents $6,500 to let him go, according to an indictment. Officials said they don't believe Baranovich, who was carrying a Ukrainian passport and U.S. visa, posed a terrorist threat.
Investigators found 19 passports in Baranovich's luggage, including 16 for women, ranging in age from their 20s to their early 30s. Authorities said they were investigating why he had those in his luggage, but haven't publicly disclosed what they found.