On Christmas Day 2009 a Nigerian man, who is the son of a wealthy businessman, attempted to blow up a Northwest/Delta Airlines A330 airliner as it began its approach into Detroit. The plane was inbound from Amsterdam and, at almost full capacity, carried nearly 300 passengers and crew. The A330 is a twin-aisle twin-engine wide body aircraft built by Airbus.
It’s been reported the would-be bomber, 23 year old Abdulmutallab, had explosives sewn into his underwear but they failed to detonate and then, after seeing smoke rising Abdulmutallab, a passenger overpowered him.
According the London Times, Abdulmutallab is a graduate of a London university but was denied reentry into the UK earlier in 2009. The Times also reports that the man has been on a US watch list because of his connections with extremist groups. Inclusion on the watch list didn’t preclude the man from traveling.
On December 26, the FBI released a bulletin…
Interviews of all of the passengers and crew of Flight 253 revealed that prior to the incident; Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for approximately 20 minutes, according to the affidavit. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself. Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallab’s pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. One flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied “explosive device.”
Abdulmutallab has been charged in Federal court.
The same day, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement from its Secretary…
I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results. The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures into place- for all domestic and international flights- to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public. We are also working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights.
The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials.
Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in.
The rules of flying have changed again-and will no doubt change again in the New Year 2010 as America continues the very real War on Terror.