Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

Transportation officials: No evidence of threat on flight to Orlando

Federal transportation officials say an investigation of a reported terrorist "dry-run" on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Orlando revealed no evidence of a threat.

In a prepared statement, Transportation Security Administration officials confirmed that an incident took place aboard a U.S. Airways flight Sept. 2, prompting an inspection of the plane and a background check of several passengers.

"In this particular incident, a thorough and collaborative review involving the Orlando Police Department, TSA and its Office of Law Enforcement and other federal law enforcement agencies was conducted," the TSA statement read. "This included an inspection of the aircraft and comprehensive government database checks on all individuals involved, all of which produced negative results."

A memo recently sent to airline pilots in the labor union for U.S. Airways describes terrorist "dry-runs" in September on a pair of flights between Washington, D.C., and Orlando International Airport.

The memo, revealed by WTSP-Ch.10, urges pilots to exercise caution after the incidents. It describes part of a Sept. 2 flight to Orlando, saying a group of "Middle Eastern males" began to act suspiciously after the plane took off.

One of the men, according to the memo, rose from his seat and ran toward the flight deck door before ducking into the adjacent lavatory.

"While he was in there, the others got up and proceeded to move about the cabin, changing seats, opening overhead bins, and generally making a scene," the memo read. "They appeared to be trying to occupy and distract the flight attendants."

One of the memo's authors is Steve Sevier, whom it says is the security chairman of the U.S. Airways Pilots Association. Sevier did not return a call for comment Friday.

Apparently written and sent to pilots in the days immediately before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the memo speculates that the men's actions were meant to test airline procedures and the reaction from flight attendants and passengers to a perceived threat.

A team of air marshals was on the flight and dealt with the situation, the memo states. After landing in Orlando, the pilot refused to fly again unless the plane was given a thorough security inspection, it states.

"Of course, the company resisted. However, the captain prevailed," the memo reads. "And guess what? Evidence of tampering was found."

Transportation security officials deny that.

The memo alludes to several other incidents of "dry-run" terrorist attacks, but specific details are limited. It mentions one case, which supposedly occurred after the Sept. 2 incident.

In that case, a group of "Middle Eastern females" clad in "full burkas" were at the Orlando airport for a flight to Washington. One of the flight's passengers was supposed to be a "significant VIP," according to the memo. He rebooked his trip upon learning there would be no air marshals on the flight, the memo states.

The Airline Pilots Association, the national pilots union, issued a statement Friday saying they were satisfied with the TSA's investigation of the Orlando incident.

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