LONDON TO D.C. FLIGHT DIVERTED AFTER DISTURBANCE
By BROOKE DONALD, Associated Press Writer August 16, 2006
BOSTON - Two fighter jets were scrambled Wednesday to escort a London-to-Washington flight to an emergency landing in Boston after a
disturbance in which passengers said a woman in a jogging suit paced up and down the aisle, peppering her incoherent mutterings
with the word "Pakistan."
The federal official for
Boston's Logan International
Airport said there was no indication of terrorism, but passengers said they were
unnerved by the woman and by the military response, just a week after authorities in London
said they foiled a terror plot to blow up flights to the U.S.
"It was a harrowing two
hours," said Antony Nash, 31, who was on his way home to San Diego
and was seated near the woman.
"I noticed F-15s next to
the plane. I said, 'Oh my God.' And then we saw the emergency vehicles" waiting on the tarmac, Nash said.
Gov. Mitt Romney said the
59-year-old woman was from Vermont and became so claustrophobic
and upset that she needed to be restrained. The FBI
in Boston said the woman, a U.S.
citizen, was arrested on charges of interfering with a flight crew.
Passengers said two plainclothes
men on board and flight attendants ran up the aisle and tackled the petite woman, slamming her into the bathroom door, throwing
her to the ground and putting her in handcuffs, passengers said.
The disturbance was enough
of a concern that the pilot declared an emergency, which activated two fighter jets to escort the plane into Logan,
said George Naccara, security director for the Transportation Security Administration for Massachusetts' airports.
Two F-15s were sent from
Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod to escort the airliner, said Master Sgt. Anthony Hill, spokesman for the North American
Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He said the fighter pilots can intercept, shadow or escort commercial aircraft and, if ordered, shoot down an aircraft deemed
to be a threat.
State police and federal
agencies took control of the plane after it landed.
Passengers were taken off
the plane, put on a bus and taken to a terminal to be interviewed, Naccara said. Their luggage was spread out on the tarmac,
where it was rechecked by security officials and trained dogs.
Joan Bartko, of Manassas, Va., said everyone on the
plane did as they were told.
"It was sort of surreal,"
she said. "You just know the best thing to do is stay calm."
Officials expected the passengers
would be allowed onto another flight to Washington later
Nash said he noticed the
woman's oversized handbag appeared to contain items such as lotion that he believed should not have been allowed on the plane
since the new safety regulations were put in place after last week's terror plot revelations.
Romney said a search of
the woman's bag turned up matches and a gelatin-like substance, which he did not define, but there was no indication the items
were related to terrorism. Naccara said he did not believe any items she was carrying were the cause of the emergency.
An airport spokesman, Phil
Orlandella, previously confirmed broadcast reports that the woman was carrying Vaseline, a screw driver and a note referring
to al-Qaida, but later backed off the statement. Naccara said it was not true.
The woman was to remain
in federal custody overnight and was expected to be charged in a federal criminal complaint early Thursday, the U.S. attorney and FBI said in a joint statement. The statement
did not elaborate on specific charges expected, except to say there was no evidence the incident was related to terrorism.
The flight from London's Heathrow Airport
to Washington's Dulles Airport had 182 passengers and 12 crew members, said Brandon Borrman, spokesman for
United Airlines parent UAL Corp.
Since the foiled terror
plot surfaced in London last week, airports have tightened security in both the United Kingdom and the U.S. Liquids and gels have been banned from carry-on luggage, and even
tighter restrictions are in place in the U.K.
Terror scares garner particular
attention in Boston because of Logan's
history. Members of al-Qaida hijacked two planes from Logan on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them
into the World Trade Center
towers in New York.