Homeland Security News

2 Passengers Arrested at Raleigh Durham Airport After Plane Disturbance

UPDATE: A federal investigation determined there was no threat aboard an American Eagle flight on which a flight attendant reported that two passengers were acting suspiciously, an FBI spokesman said early Saturday the FBI searched the plane and interviewed the 27 passengers and three crew members aboard American Eagle Flight 4518 from Jackonsville, Fla., and determined “the observed activity was misperceived,” FBI spokesman Newsom Summerlin in Charlotte said.He would not comment on what the flight attendant thought she saw.

Two people were arrested at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Friday night after causing a “serious disturbance” on their flight from Jacksonville, Fla., according to an airport spokeswoman.

No one was injured, but the disturbance was classified as a terrorist threat, according to RDU Spokeswoman Colleen Fischvogt. Investigators did not say what may have been said or found to have prompted that decision.

Authorities did not immediately release the names of the two people who were arrested. They are in the custody of the FBI, officials said.

Police and emergency personnel met American Eagle flight 4518 at RDU after hearing that two passengers were causing a disturbance. The plane was held away from the terminal after it landed, and police surrounded the aircraft.

It had been scheduled to go to Gate C26.The flight was an Embraer ERJ-145, a regional twin-engine jet, according to its schedule information.

Several other emergency vehicles were also on the scene.

The flight was en route to RDU when the crew called for police to meet them.

Flight 4518 was due at RDU at 8:20 p.m. after leaving Jacksonville at 7 p.m.

Passengers were kept on the plane for a time, and police approached the aircraft with movable stairs. Passengers were able to get off the plane just before 9:50 p.m.

Police then took them to a central location to interview them briefly about what they had seen or heard.

Officials had disclosed no information at 10:30 p.m. about the cause of the disturbance or what happened to make the crew call police.

RDU commercial operations were proceeding normally during the incident, with both main runways open.

Source – WRAL.com

Although an RDU spokeswoman said two people were arrested as the FBI investigated a “perceived terrorist threat” on board American Eagle Flight 4158 from Jacksonville, FL, to RDU, an FBI spokesman said he couldn’t confirm those details.

“Apparently, about 30 minutes prior to landing, there was a report of a passenger acting suspiciously,” FBI spokesman Newsom Summerlin in Charlotte said.

Local and federal law enforcement officials responded when the plane landed about 8:40 p.m. at a remote area of the airport, he said. Airport spokeswoman Colleen Fischvogt, who said two people were arrested, said the passengers were bused to their terminal.

She did not have names or charges.

Summerlin would not comment on whether anyone was arrested, adding that there’s a difference between investigative detention and being arrested.

American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said a flight attendant had “a security concern with a passenger,” prompting law enforcement officials to meet the plane.

In a telephone interview, Annie Jacobsen from Aviation Nation spoke to Spokeswoman Colleen Fischvogt and was told , “we received word from the pilot about the suspicious activity before the flight landed.” Fischvogt explained that when Flight 518 landed, it sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes before FBI “took jurisdiction,” boarded the plane and arrested two people. DHS and local law enforcement were also present on the tarmac but “FBI took over the sight and the situation,” Fischvogt said.

“Wait a minute,” Jacobsen asked, “The passengers were stuck inside the plane with two bad guys for 45 minutes before law enforcement boarded the aircraft?” wanting to make sure she heard Fischvogt correctly.

Yes, Fischvogt confirmed.

Consider the agencies present 24/7 at the federalized Raleigh-Durham International Airport: FBI, DHS, (TSA & Federal Air Marshal Service), Joint Terrorism Task Force, ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) and airport police. And yet it took seven law enforcement agencies some forty-five minutes to put a single officer on the plane to counter the threat and secure the plane?

Jacobsen’s analysis is that the delay was caused by FBI and DHS fighting over who had jurisdiction; protocol over ‘acts of air piracy’ are a constant source of bickering between the two agencies and have been the subject of at least one DHS Inspector General’s Report. But what were the passengers doing, she asked Fischvogt?

Using their cell phones to call people in the terminals and call the news media,” Fischvogt said.

Jacobsen asked Fischvogt the ethnicity of the two passengers who were arrested: “one report says ‘of Middle Eastern descent’ but I personally can not confirm that,” she said.

Aviation Nation

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