Man takes box cutters onto JetBlue plane at JFK

AP News
Posted: Mar 02, 2011 5:53 PM
Man takes box cutters onto JetBlue plane at JFK

The Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday it is sending three screeners for remedial training after a passenger carried three box cutters onto a JetBlue plane at New York's Kennedy airport.

The box cutters fell out of the passenger's carry-on luggage as he was stowing it in an overhead compartment on Flight 837 to Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, on Saturday night, authorities said. Police evacuated the flight and questioned the passenger, who said he used the box cutters for his work and had forgotten to take them out of his bag.

TSA officers re-screened all the passengers, and the flight was allowed to take off at 12:35 a.m. on Sunday, about three hours late, JetBlue said.

Three screeners will be disciplined and sent for remedial training for failing to spot the box cutters, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said.

"We do take the matter very seriously, and we will certainly ensure that the officers on duty at the time are remediated and disciplined appropriately," Davis said. She would not elaborate on the kind of punishment they would face.

She said images of the bag will likely be used to train officers in the future.

It was unclear if the passenger continued on to the Dominican Republic. TSA said he was released after questioning. JetBlue said the flight continued on "without incident" but would not comment further.

Hjackers used box cutters to take over at least one of the jets used in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the U.S. government's 9/11 Commission. Hijacker Mohamed Atta also told a co-conspirator that he and fellow hijackers Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi had carried box cutters on cross-country test flights in the United States, according to the commission's 2004 report.

One alleged Al-Qaida operative, Tawfiq bin Attash, described to investigators how he smuggled a box cutter aboard another test flight on a U.S. airline flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, Thailand. He packed the box cutter next to metallic tubes of toothpaste and shaving cream to hide it from X-ray scanners, and brought along art supplies to help explain the box cutter if he was caught.

Al-Qaida dropped Bin Attash, who is also known by the single name Khallad, from the 9/11 plot after he had trouble getting a U.S. visa, the commission's report said. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2003.

Despite Saturday's security breach, the TSA said Wednesday it has become harder for hijackers to use box cutters to take control of a plane.

"There have been a number of additional security layers implemented on aircraft since 9/11 that would prevent someone from causing catastrophic damage with small cutting devices," the agency said in a written statement. It cited armed air marshals, bulletproof cockpit doors, pilots carrying firearms, flight crews trained in self-defense and "a vigilant traveling public who have demonstrated a willingness to intervene."