Air Canada Flight Returns to L.A. with F-16 Escort : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE: 09/27/2001 7:48 pm ET

Air Canada Flight Returns to L.A. with F-16 Escort

By Dan Whitcomb LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An Air Canada jetliner bound for Toronto returned to Los Angeles with an escort of two U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets on Thursday after a passenger became unruly, FBI and airline officials said.

Air Canada Flight 792, a Boeing 767 with about 145 people on board, landed safely at Los Angeles International Airport at 1:40 p.m. PDT (4:40 p.m. EDT) and the passenger, whose name was not released, was taken into FBI custody.

The incident came as U.S President Bush unveiled new security measures intended to coax Americans back into the skies after hijacking attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

And the plane, accompanied by the two F-16s, landed at LAX as California Gov. Gray Davis was arriving at the airport for a press conference on airline safety, where he urged the people of his state to "make flying a way of life again."

"We were about 5 minutes out when those two jets buzzed the airport, so I knew something was up," Davis told reporters at the press conference.

An Air Canada spokesman said the disturbance began when the passenger started smoking in the plane's bathroom.

"This was a passenger who had apparently been smoking and when he was asked to put out the cigarette an argument ensued and he became rather unruly," Air Canada spokesman Dick Griffith said.

"At that point the passenger was subdued and the pilot elected to return to LAX as a precautionary measure," Griffith said, adding that it was not immediately clear how the man was detained.

"The flight crew was able to subdue him," Griffith said. "They controlled the situation but as far as what physically they did I just don't know at this point."

Griffith said the plane taxied to a secure area of the airport before passengers were taken to a special holding room for interviews and all baggage inspected. The passengers were then booked on a later flight.

Griffith said the pilot followed procedure in returning to LAX after the disturbance, though he said the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks that left 7,000 people dead or missing "had some bearing" on the way the incident was handled.

Among the measures announced by President Bush on Thursday were the deployment of National Guard troops at U.S. airports, more armed "air marshals" in the skies and better security for cockpits.

However, Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette said on Thursday it was unlikely his country's airlines would have armed marshals aboard flights. Instead, the country preferred to boost airport security, he told reporters in Ottawa.

(David Ljunggren in Ottawa contributed to this story)

-- Martin Thompson (, September 27, 2001


Now I've seen it all. This is as unbelievable as the terrorist hijackings. Escorting a jet flight back to its destination because a passenger was smoking a cigarette. I'm in awe. Unless the sun stops shining tomorrow, nothing will ever surprise me again.

-- Guy Daley (, September 27, 2001.

Talk about overraction to hijacking terror, this takes the cake.

-- Uncle Fred (, September 27, 2001.

I wonder . . . how long did they sit on the tarmac before the plane actually took off? How long was the smoking passenger stuck in the non-smoking security area before his plane boarded?

I've worked and lived with cigarette smokers who would get the screaming heebie-jeebies if they had to go 4 hours without a smoke.

Forget the terrorists - I'm afraid of the guy next to me going smokeless 8 hours now, and without his patch!

I used to like flying.

-- Margaret J - a caffeine addict, myself (, September 28, 2001.

Well the guy could've blown up the plane with his cigarette lighter, or could've threatened to burn the pilot's chin and hijack the plane to Moose Jaw.

Or maybe they should just dress all passengers in strait jackets so we can have safe skies, like Baba Bush promised this a.m.?

It's the beginning of paranoia as we've never known it.

-- smoker (, September 28, 2001.

Re: Or maybe they should just dress all passengers in strait jackets so we can have safe skies, like Baba Bush promised this a.m.?

This is so surreal, I am sure somebody is thinking of it somewhere in the FAA! :^) Or, we could all be strapped in and then sedated for the flight. The cost of medication would be offset by the savings from removing galleys and lavatories from the planes. They won't be needed if we are all unconscious.

There was a nice description of restrained passengers on a star liner in the Hitchhikers Guide trilogy. They were in suspended animation for millenia, parked at the gate, while the plane waited for a delivery of lemon scented napkins. Art imitates life?

-- Margaret J (, September 28, 2001.

Iranian arrested in LA hijack scare

Click for complete story Friday, 28 September 2001 2:46 (ET)

Iranian arrested in LA hijack scare

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- An Air Canada jet made a dramatic unprecedented landing accompanied by two Air Force fighter jets at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday after an Iranian passenger reportedly created a loud disturbance that apparently triggered a near panic among the other 137 passengers.

On the same day that President George W. Bush spoke at a rally in Chicago to "get back on board" U.S. airlines, the Boeing 767 touched down with an F-16 flying off each wingtip and a bevy of police officers and an FBI SWAT team waiting.

The gray F-16s roared off over the Pacific after the airliner taxied to a remote area of the airport and was quickly boarded by the heavily armed agents dressed in all black.

"We were looking down the corridor, and there must have been 10 of them (SWAT agents), side by side and all tightly packed together with their guns out, totally covered in black and screaming 'get your head down,'" passenger Bruce Fitzgerald told KABC-TV. "That was a really frightening experience. It almost seemed like a movie."

Air Canada Flight 792 had been en route from Los Angeles to Toronto with 138 passengers and seven crew members when a passenger identified as Javid Naghani, 37, allegedly lit up a cigarette in a lavatory.

"We all knew as soon as we smelled smoke that we were probably going to have to turn back," another passenger, Kim Powell, told reporters.

Witnesses on the flight told agents that Naghani was discovered by a flight attendant who loudly told him smoking on airliners was banned by U.S. law.

"The male passenger allegedly became abusive with the flight attendant and made disparaging statements against the United States," the FBI said in a press release. "The pilot communicated information and stated that he would be returning to the airport as a precautionary measure."

Los Angeles television stations had initially reported that a bomb threat had been made during the row, but there was no indication from the FBI that such a threat had been made.

The incident, however, shook up the other passengers, many of whom said they were shocked at the aggressive response by the authorities.

"When we landed, that's when things got a little surreal," said passenger Joe Futtner. "That was a little disconcerting."

The pair of Air Force fighter jets was dispatched to escort the Canadian jet back to Los Angeles where Naghani was taken into custody and turned over to the FBI, which routinely investigates disruptions aboard airliners, on suspicion of interfering with a flight crew.

California Gov. Gray Davis was, by coincidence, holding his own news conference at an airport parking lot, coaxing the public to go back to flying on commercial airliners and promising safety for passengers with the National Guard units to be called up to assist with providing airport security. The governor was stationed at a LAX parking lot where passengers who arrive at the airport in private cars must now catch shuttle buses to the terminal.

The suspect will be in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday morning.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 28, 2001.

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