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Sun, Apr 20, 2003

AA Pilot Asks For Military Escort

CA-NY Flight Diverted To Phoenix

Imagine this: You're the captain of a 757 flying passengers from Long Beach (CA) to JFK Airport in New York (NY). A flight attendant rings you up on the intercom and says one of the passengers may have a knife. What do you do?

In the case of AAL 242, you call for help. In this case, on Friday, the captain radioed for a military escort. The idea: If all else failed, the escorting fighters could shoot down 242 before it impacted a population center or strategic target.

Tense Moments? You Betcha

The cabin crew had been notified by a passenger that two passengers, who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, were acting suspiciously. One of them may have had a knife, according to the passenger. The flight was diverted to Phoenix Sky Harbor International and both the FBI and TSA went into high gear.

The flight landed, taxied to the gate and deplaning passengers were greeted by suspicious federal agents. The two Middle Eastern men were isolated and questioned inside the terminal, as were two other passengers, one of whom had expressed concerns to the cabin crew.

The Upshot?

No knife. No threat. Nothing. The two women who had raised their concerns were booked from Phoenix to Sky Harbor on another flight. The two Middle Eastern passengers were allowed to reboard. The 757 was refueled and eventually continued onto JFK without further incident.

FMI: www.aa.com

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