A dispatch that came in over the wire services within the hour indicates that U.S. fighter jets were scrambled this morning to intercept an Air France jetliner, which was then escorted to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. The action was taken after an anonymous threat was received by Maryland State Police, who were informed of a “chemical weapons threat” aboard the AirBus 330-200.
Just before noon, the French airline tweeted:
— Air France Newsroom (@AFnewsroom) May 25, 2015
According to the New York Post, the plane “was immediately taken to a secure area of the airport called the ‘hijack site.'” The plane, the Post goes on to note, carried 165 passengers and 11 crew members. It landed shortly after 10 a.m. The plane’s cargo was removed before the passengers were escorted off by federal officials. Passengers have been taken to a secure area, presumably for interrogation.
The Post adds, quoting unnamed law enforcement sources:
There have been at least two similar threats called in about flight coming into JFK on Monday….
One is a Saudi Airlines flight and the other is American [Airlines] Flight 131, which is scheduled to touch down just before noon from Birmingham, England.
A Delta flight coming into Newark on Monday was also saddled with a chemical-weapons tip, while an EWR-bound cargo plane was reported to be carrying a bomb….
It wasn’t immediately clear if any of these flights will be handled like the Air France 22 landing at JFK.
This story will be updated as further information becomes available.
* UPDATE *: [J.E.] – As of about 8:45 PM EDT, ABC reports that the Air France airliner was cleared after inspection on the ground, “out of an abundance of caution.” Authorities reportedly considered none of the threats made against airline flights on 25 May credible, but were also checking the Saudi Airlines aircraft, which had been allowed to land, at the time of the report.
More aircraft were threatened on Monday:
A third threat was made against an American Airlines jet flying from Birmingham, England, to Kennedy while it was still in the air, airline spokesman Kent Powell said. Authorities initially told the pilot to land and taxi to a remote area away from the terminal but later radioed that the threat was not credible and cleared the plane to go to the terminal, Powell said.
At Newark Liberty International Airport, passengers were removed from a United Airlines flight after it arrived from Madrid, United spokeswoman Mary Clark said. The plane was inspected Monday afternoon at a spot away from the terminal.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. said two of its international planes were threatened: a Paris-to-Boston flight and a London-to-Newark flight.
A threat made against a Paris-to-Boston airliner was deemed not credible, Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman Matthew Brelis said, but he didn’t say if that was Delta’s plane. He said he didn’t know the circumstances of the threat or if the plane was searched.
The full extent of the surge in apparent hoax threats is not yet clear. We may find out about more of them as this continues to develop.