Bloomberg News

US Airways Jet Diverted on Passenger’s ‘Suspicious Behavior’

May 22, 2012

A US Airways Group Inc. (LCC:US) flight en route from Paris to Charlotte, North Carolina, was diverted after a passenger said she had a surgically implanted device inside her, a U.S. congressman said. Nothing was found, federal officials said.

The Boeing Co. (BA:US) 767 jet landed safely in Bangor, Maine, shortly after noon local time, said Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for the carrier. The jet had 188 passengers and crew, he said today, and referred further questions to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

A French citizen on board handed a note to a flight attendant that said she had a surgically implanted device inside her, U.S. Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. Doctors on the flight checked her out and did not see any sign of recent scars, King said.

No bomb or security threat was found, said a federal law enforcement official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The investigation is proceeding, the official said. The woman was arrested, according to King’s statement.

“TSA is aware of reports of a passenger who exhibited suspicious behavior during flight,” Sterling Payne, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Law enforcement officers met the plane in Bangor, the first U.S. jet airport that incoming planes from Europe can reach, after it was sent there “out of an abundance of caution” because of the passenger’s behavior, she said.

Kathleen Wright, an FBI spokeswoman, said she couldn’t comment.

The TSA alerted airlines last July that terrorists including the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were studying how to implant explosive devices in new efforts to destroy airliners.

Cockpit Secure

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers interviewed the passenger while other travelers were fed at Bangor and boarded the aircraft to fly to Charlotte. US Airways estimates the flight will land at about 6 p.m. local time, Lehmacher said.

Air traffic controllers asked Flight 787 to verify that the plane’s cockpit was secure, according to an air traffic control recording posted on LiveATC.net.

“Affirmative, cockpit is secure,” one of the pilots responded.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, which sends missile-equipped fighter jets when there’s a suspected terrorist event in the sky, dispatched two F-15 jets from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts, at 11:40 a.m. local time, the agency said in a statement.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller praised law enforcement and the airline crew’s response.

“Every suspicious incident needs to be taken seriously,” the West Virginia Democrat said in an e-mailed statement. “We can’t afford to take chances when it comes to our country’s security.”

US Airways, on its website’s flight status section, said the flight “was diverted to Bangor to accommodate customers from a canceled flight.” Lehmacher said that information is incorrect.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net; Angela Greiling Keane in Washington at agreilingkea@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net; Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net


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