Was There a Terrorist Dry Run on an AirTran Plane? (I Think Not)

Did you guys see this really odd story about some problem passengers on an AirTran flight last month? I can’t quite figure out how this thing blew up to the point where people were thinking it was a terrorist dry run, but it looks like the reports were embellished by someone claiming to be on the airplane. (He wasn’t.) The email started shooting through cyberspace at lightning speed. It’s amazing how false rumors get spread and taken as truth so quickly. (Just ask Fox News.)

On November 17, AirTran flight 297 was supposed to leave Atlanta at 440p for a flight to Houston. There AirTran Terrorist Dry Run?  I Think Notwere some issues on the plane, they pulled some people off to question them, and eventually they let them back on. According to FlightAware, AirTran 297 lifted off at 745p. Seems pretty routine, but then Tedd Petruna stepped in.

Tedd says he was a passenger on that flight, and it was a much more dramatic than what was initially reported. In his email regarding the flight (thanks, Airline Biz), Tedd says he was up in first class (AirTran actually has business class, not first, but ok) and he got involved.

Eleven “muslim men” got onboard (how he knew that, I couldn’t tell you) and scattered throughout the plane. Apparently one guy up front called to another guy in the back (again, how he knew he called a guy in the back, we’ll never know) and started speaking loudly in Arabic. The flight attendants repeatedly told him to turn the cell phone off, but he wouldn’t.

Then, in the back of the plane, two younger Muslims started watching porn (how the hell did a guy in the front of the plane see this?) and in his eyes, that’s only allowed right before Jihad (apparently not true).

This crap goes on and on until our hero Tedd apparently wrestles the guys to the ground until the TSA and police stormed the airplane. They took the 11 guys off the plane and removed their bags. We’re done, right? Nope.

The 11 get back on the plane and the crew decided to walk off instead of fly with these guys. Tedd got up and stormed off the plane as well. Apparently so many people stormed off the plane that they canceled the flight (we obviously know isn’t true) and he eventually landed at 1230a (they have no flight that late.)

So without even doing any additional fact-checking, this thing seems highly suspicious. But it gets even more hi-lariously wrong. AirTran told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Tedd Petruna wasn’t even on the plane in the first place! Oh sure, he was supposed to be on it, but he missed his first flight from Akron/Canton to Atlanta, so he ended up not making it to Atlanta until about a half an hour after 297 first tried to leave.

According to AirTran, it’s a very different story. It sounds like these guys weren’t dressed in any particularly memorable way, and there wasn’t any sort of fight on the airplane. No TSA or police officer ever came on the airplane either. So really, it sounds like a rowdy group of guys who wouldn’t turn their cell phones off so they pulled them off the plane to check it out. After they talked to them and checked to make sure they weren’t a security threat, they let them back on and that was that.

Twelve passengers opted not to travel on that flight, and the crews were swapped (probably because they didn’t want to fly with these guys), but that was it.

I just wonder why AirTran isn’t really being more proactive here. They posted a refutation on their “internal website” of each point made by Tedd in his email and they sent it to the media. I’m not sure how long of a list that was, but I never saw anything. I’d think they would want to get the truth out there, because it sounds like they handled the situation just fine. As for our hero Tedd, I really have to wonder what the heck he was thinking.

19 Responses to Was There a Terrorist Dry Run on an AirTran Plane? (I Think Not)

  1. Jay says:

    Twelve passengers opted not to travel on that flight, and the crews were swapped (probably because they didn’t want to fly with these guys), but that was it.

    So…the crew did not want to fly with these guys, but everything is OK?

    From AirTran’s official response”

    The crews were swapped. This is a common occurrence in the aviation industry for any number of reasons. If a Crew Member cannot or will not continue a flight, we must replace that Crew Member.

    While I don’t think this was any sort of “dry-run,” why can’t AirTran explain their crew’s actions? Don’t they know why their crew didn’t continue?

    Does that mean AirTrans crews are easy to spook? Crew does not want to continue, passengers don’t want to continue. Maybe they overreacted, but is that “normal?”

    Maybe AirTran handled the situation badly and they don’t want anyone to know?

  2. Sunil says:

    The passengers in question spoke Spanish and evidently did not understand what the flight attendant was telling them as they were looking at pictures on their camera.

    http://www.ajc.com/business/airtran-hero-wasn-t-226517.html?imw=Y

    According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution story, the crew may have had scheduling issues.

  3. I just wonder why AirTran isn’t really being more proactive here.

    I think they’re actually being really smart on this. It isn’t an issue worthy of the media, and they’re not helping it to become one. I really think they’re being very aware of the Streisand effect

  4. drgmobile says:

    This story has already been debunked by the Economist. The guy telling the story wasn’t even on the flight

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver

  5. JM says:

    Way to ruin a good conspiracy story, CF.

    Next you will be telling everyone that my tinfoil hat isn’t needed for protection from government satellite-generated radio beams….

    JM

  6. CF says:

    Jay wrote:

    While I don’t think this was any sort of “dry-run,” why can’t AirTran explain their crew’s actions? Don’t they know why their crew didn’t continue?

    Any pilots or flight attendants care to chime in? In my experience, sometimes when a flight attendant has an altercation of some sort with a passenger, it can shake them and they don’t want to fly with them. I don’t think that’s uncommon, but others may know better.

    Nicholas Barnard wrote:

    I really think they’re being very aware of the Streisand effect

    Isn’t the Streisand Effect the opposite? That’s when someone deliberately tries to cover something up and then it blows up in the media making it even worse.

  7. David SFeastbay says:

    Well if Tedd is related to Balloon Daddy, and has ever crashed a White House Dinner party, or ran his SUV up a neighbors tree in the middle of the night returning from playing “golf”, maybe Saturday Night Live will do a skit on him…….lol

  8. PeteyNice says:

    I can’t believe you people are swallowing AirTran’s story whole. Tedd Petruna is not the guy’s real name. He had to use a pseudonym to protect his identity – like all great heroes. With a Muslim in charge you cannot be too careful!

    Superman
    Spiderman
    Batman
    Tedd Petruna

    All great heroes that keep our country safe every day!

  9. bendav says:

    An Nov. 18 piece in the AJC here: http://bit.ly/4RhmMG describes the incident – one passenger described it as a miscommunication. Because there were no charges filed and the group was allowed to reboard, I figured as much. From the story it appears some of the crew may have been upset and opted not to fly.

    Mr. Petruna seems to be trying to make a name for himself – or perhaps try out for some type of “reality” show!

  10. RuralRob says:

    Expect to see Ted Petruna as a regular guest on Faux News real soon now.

  11. CF wrote:

    Isn’t the Streisand Effect the opposite? That’s when someone deliberately tries to cover something up and then it blows up in the media making it even worse.

    I don’t think its the exact same, but if they put out a press release “there is nothing to see here” there is no issue. People would assume there was some issue.

  12. Darkwater says:

    Talking Points Memo has additional coverage, including an interview with Mr. Petruna in which he claims he was onboard the flight and pretty much everything happened the way he described:
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/12/tedd_petruna_i_thwarted_muslim_hijackers_on_airtra.php?ref=fpblg

    TPM gets confirmation from the FAA that their investigation uncovered “no violations” of regulations on the use of electronic devices:
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/12/faa_probe_found_no_violations_on_petrunas_muslim_h.php?ref=fpblg

    Warning: Debbie Schlussel is getting involved:
    http://www.debbieschlussel.com/13236/why-is-airtran-lying-about-attacking-its-customers-the-answers-documents-airtran-wont-provide/

  13. Ok. Is this a conspiracy story? Who knew airlines “swap” crews if there’s an issue. That good information to know. It’s interesting that TSA or security did not get involved in this because they get involved in everything else. What does this say about air travel security?

  14. Frank V says:

    @ Travel-Writers-Exchange.com:
    Keeping TSA out of the mix was probably smart — given their “Wal*Mart Security Guard” mentality, it probably would have denigrated into an full-fledged incident.

  15. rob l says:

    “Tedd says he was a passenger on that flight,”

    I became suspicious right there.

    I don’t trust people who use extra letters. Either be “Ted” or “Teddy.” Preferably not the latter, if you’re over the age of, say 14.

  16. asad says:

    This is hilarious, I love the part where Muslims are only allowed to watch porn the night before they blow themselves up, so as part of their dry run they were watching porn for their test suicide ?? I have some CDS that I need to sell to this gentleman.

  17. Leslie says:

    From what I’ve read, I think Teddddd ended up on the subsequent flight along with the people who bumped themselves. That’s where he heard the story. Perhaps it was embellished by whomever told him (who obviously was frightened enough not to stay on that original flight) or perhaps he did his own creative add-ons. Or both.

    The Atlanta paper had a witness who said it was not a cell phone but a camera and that he was going through his photos. And that the English speaker of the group didn’t get up and intervene because he knew you weren’t supposed to get out of your seat while taxiing.

    But why say it’s a customer service problem? I mean, it’s clear that the non-English speaking flyer wouldn’t turn off something electronic. That’s TSA right? Not that it may have ended up being a big deal but that’s potentially interfering (if only in theory) with cockpit communications.

    Unless we really can have electronics on when we take off and we’ve been lied to all these years.

    Now that’s a conspiracy theory I can believe in.

  18. Mark B says:

    Really sad to see you single out Fox news as if CNN, BBC and the legacy networks aren’t desperately peddling their agendas. Sorry to see that you’re just part of that mob (like the “journalists” at MSNBC, CBS and CNN that blamed the Jihadist doctor who killed those folks in Texas on pretty much everything other than than his desire to kill infidels). I guess having this blog makes you believe that what you think about things outside your very limited area is important enough to share. Please, get over yourself. This could have been a good blog entry if you weren’t so rabid about making a facile point.

    Farewell

  19. Alex says:

    The crew was swapped probably because they will exceed their duty day if they fly the original assigned flight ( which is now delayed ).

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