Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Some Things Are Always Taken Seriously

Most of us have probably heard or read about the young man who caused a plane coming from Paris to be diverted to Bangor, Maine, after claiming to have a fake passport and to have explosives in his luggage. The article in the Spokesman Review is somewhat brief. You can find more on the Bangor Daily News.

What's not mentioned is how this claim came to be known. I have my suspicions he was talking to a fellow passenger--a young woman?--and thought he'd come up with a good joke or some ill-conceived method of making an impression. That's yet to come out. But one or more air marshals were on the plane.

After air marshals detained the man, flight attendants asked passengers in the back of the plane to move to empty seats in the front. They also collected passengers’ pillows and blankets, piling the cushions in the back of the plane.

No word as to why the the remaining passengers' comfort had to be sacrificed.

Back in 1982, while I was at McChord AFB near Tacoma--I was in law enforcement at the time--we had a young man on a military flight from Korea who mentioned having a grenade in his luggage. It was something you didn't joke about back then either. We called the Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. They dragged his bag safely away from the aircraft, set a charge next to it, and blasted his clothing all over the tarmac. There was no grenade. We called his commander in Korea who canceled the young man's leave and ordered him on the next flight back to his unit.

In the late 70's I was stationed in Athens, Greece. Our small base had a terminal connecting to the Athens airport. Having EOD come out to blow up luggage or a briefcase that didn't contain explosives was a frequent occurrence. Sometimes it was someone making a joke and sometimes it was an unattended bag. Either way, I'm confident that nobody made that mistake twice. But enough of them made it at least once which we found entertaining for the most part. Back then you had to pick up your mess and then answer to your commander. Nowadays they haul you off to face charges.

*** Update

Nope, not trying to impress anyone. Apparently he's slightly unbalanced.

A former Air Force intelligence specialist showed signs of paranoia aboard a trans-Atlantic flight and told federal air marshals that he had dynamite in his boots and laptop computer, forcing the plane to be diverted to Maine, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Derek Stansberry told the FBI that fellow passengers were talking about him, ridiculing him and using interrogation techniques on him, and suggested that he concocted the dynamite story to divert attention from the fact he held "classified information," according to an affidavit.

Passengers reported that seat cushions, pillows and blankets were taken to the back of the plane, where federal air marshals erected a bunker of sorts around the boots and laptop "to dampen the effects of any potential explosion," FBI Special Agent James McCarty wrote in the affidavit.

A bunker of sorts? Really?

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