A Sri Lankan man has admitted trying to take control of a Malaysia Airlines flight out of Melbourne in a mid-air drama that forced the plane to turn back to Tullamarine.
Manodh Marks, 25, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday to attempting to take control of Malaysia Airlines flight 128 bound for Kuala Lumpur on May 31. The charge carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence.
In a plea deal, prosecutors struck out a more serious charge of attempting to hijack an aircraft, which attracts a maximum of life imprisonment.
A charge of reckless conduct endangering aircraft safety, by attempting to enter the cockpit and threatening to detonate an explosive, was also withdrawn.
A third charge of threatening to destroy, damage or endanger the aircraft's safety, or to kill or injure anyone on board, was also dropped.
Marks, who at the time was living in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong on a student visa, was released from psychiatric care on the same day he bought a ticket and boarded the flight carrying 337 passengers, police said at the time.
He was grabbed by passengers who tied him up during the flight, which was forced to turn back to Tullamarine.
When asked to enter a plea to a single charge of attempting to take control of an aircraft, Marks replied through an interpreter: "I plead guilty, your honour".
He was remanded in custody to face the Melbourne County Court in April for a plea hearing. He made no bid for bail.
Magistrate Simon Zebrowski noted Marks was vulnerable in custody as he has a psychiatric illness and it was his first time in jail.