Police escort pilot off plane at JFK

Man told bag screeners flight was going to blow up

October 26, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - Police officers escorted a pilot off an Air France plane that was scheduled to fly to Paris on Friday after he made comments to baggage screeners that the plane was going to blow up, that he was going to blow up, and that the story would end up on the front page of The New York Times, the authorities said.

The incident occurred about 5 p.m. Friday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

A piece of checked luggage belonging to the pilot, whose name was not released, set off an alarm when sent through a large explosive detection machine in the airport, said Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, the agency in charge of screening at the nation's major airports. The pilot was notified and returned from the plane to the departure level, where the bag was.

"While screeners were inspecting the bag, he made some comments about the plane blowing up, him blowing up, and the story ending up on the front page of The New York Times," she said. The screeners notified the Port Authority police and finished their inspection, finding nothing suspicious in the bag.

The pilot returned to the plane, Flight 23 to Paris, but the Port Authority police escorted him off the plane and took him in for questioning.

An authority with the Transportation Security Administration said the Queens district attorney's office had declined to press charges against the pilot. Calls to that office were referred to the Port Authority police, who said the pilot had been detained briefly for questioning and released. The police referred other questions to the TSA.

Jim Faulkner, a spokesman for Air France, said he did not know if there would be any disciplinary action taken against the pilot, who was to return to Paris yesterday.

"From the beginning, our primary concern was getting passengers to their destination," he said.

Everyone was put on a later flight, he said. The original plane did not take off.

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