Security and law enforcement officials in Denver tonight have begun intense questioning of a United Airlines Flight 663 passenger to determine if his onboard behavior indicated a terrorist act in the making or if the man was having a smoke.
Early and unconfirmed reports indicate that person or persons onboard the Boeing 757 smelled smoke coming from the bathroom occupied by the security person of interest, reported to be a Qatar diplomat who lives in Washington D.C.
A federal air marshal is said to have subdued the man for the remainder of the flight. Tonight’s interrogation will aim to clarify whether the man told authorities he was lighting his shoe—which sparked fears of a repeat Shoe Bomber attempt—or if he was lighting up a cigarette.
United Airlines tonight confirmed that Flight 663 had departed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at 5:19pm (EDT) Wed., April 7, for a non-stop flight to Denver. The flight, with 157 passengers and six crewmembers onboard, was scheduled to land at Denver at 7pm (MDT).
Preliminary reports say the incident occurred when the aircraft was about 20 min. from its destination -- which prompted the crew’s decision to proceed to Denver and request that the 757 be met by law enforcement teams. (If the aircraft was some distance from Denver, the crew would likely have diverted the flight to an nearby airport.) The onboard deplaned safely and the suspect was taken in for questioning.
Aviation Week will provide updates on the security incident.