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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.

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