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Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- A 65-year-old passenger was charged with a felony after boarding an American Airlines flight with a gun in her handbag and passing through security screening at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, authorities said.
The loaded .38-caliber revolver was spotted during an X-ray check of the bag, Greg Soule, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said in an interview. The woman took the bag from the conveyor and left the security area before the TSA could notify police, he said. Soule declined to elaborate.
The woman passed through security at about 6:30 a.m. and was taken into custody about 8 a.m., after the plane from AMR Corp.’s American taxied back to the terminal, an airport spokesman, David Magana, said today in a statement. The woman is from Little Elm, Texas, and was charged with a third-degree weapons felony under state law and released this afternoon, Magana said. Police are withholding her name for now, he said.
“This is not a typical, exploitable weakness and the reality is that we have human beings in this system and they can be distracted,” said John Nance, a former commercial and Air Force pilot who runs the safety consulting company John Nance & Associates in University Place, Washington.
“It’s less a matter of ‘Oh my god, we had a breach and the whole system is wrong’ than this being a reason to review things and find out if there are chinks in the armor that we can improve,” Nance said.
When TSA officers realized the woman had left the screening area, they called airport police and reviewed closed-circuit video to get a description of her, Soule said.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport police swept all five terminals during the search for the woman, and 10 flights were delayed by about 25 minutes while shuttle trains bypassed the terminal where the incident occurred, Magana said in the statement.
Soule and Magana declined to say why officials didn’t evacuate and re-screen all passengers in the terminal, or why passengers weren’t prevented from getting on planes during the search for the weapon.
The woman was on American Airlines Flight 2385 bound for Houston with 128 passengers and five crew members, and the MD-80 jet had pushed away from the gate when it was recalled, said Ed Martelle, a spokesman for the Fort Worth-based carrier.
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