Man ignites small bomb on U.S. bound plane

A Nigerian man is under arrest after igniting a bomb on a plane bound for Detroit yesterday.

Abdul Mudallad, 23, used a powder strapped to his leg mixed with a syringe containing some sort of liquid to set off a small explosion on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam as it made its final descent into Detroit.

While the mixture did explode, the explosion was very small and the ensuing flames only harmed Mr. Mudallad, giving him third-degree burns on one leg. Passengers quickly tackled him. None of the other 278 passengers or 11 crew were injured. One passenger described the explosion as a “little pop”. The flames needed to be put out with a fire extinguisher.

President Obama has ordered increased security for air travel and the Department of Homeland Security has added extra screening measures.

The bomber was on a U.S. government database for having “a significant terrorist connection” although that did not qualify him for the “no-fly” list. Why someone with a significant terrorist connection can fly on a U.S. airline will doubtlessly be a major question in coming days.

Under questioning after the incident, Mr. Mudallad claimed he has connections with Al-Qaeda and got the chemicals for his bomb in Yemen.

Some reports state Mr. Mudallad is a student of University College London, but a search of the university’s online directory did not reveal his name. The directory, however, only lists students and faculty who have publicly available contact information.

UPDATE, Dec. 27 1242GMT: This post was made shortly after the incident occurred and was correct according to the latest reports at that time. Two details have emerged that should be addressed. The man’s name is now said to be Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and University College London states that he was a mechanical engineering student, but he is not currently enrolled. I felt it was best not to change the original post, as it is now of historic interest in showing how breaking news stories can change fundamentally over time, but since two later posts link to this one I felt I should update the name and university status. More details will doubtless emerge and be covered in later posts.

Travel Fail

If you’re as bored at work as I am, you’ve already discovered the joys of Fail Blog. This little gem popped up a few days ago. I knew that the TSA was strict about what items make their way onto planes, but when did we crack down on pants? What did pants ever do to anyone? Pants are one of the five most docile articles of clothing you can pack. I blame the proliferation of cargo pockets. Of course people are going to be fearful of your pants when they contain any number of secret compartments hiding mysterious items like wallets, passports and hard candies.

So next time you’re heading to the airport, leave your pants at home. The TSA is sure to appreciate how easy it is to search you while you’re in tightie whities and your baggage won’t be flagged. And don’t get cocky by trying to smuggle gas in your pants. As you can see above, that would be a double-whammy.

TSA inspector damages planes and causes major flight delays

As one of the duties to make sure air travel is safer, TSA inspectors check planes for security issues while the planes are parked.

Unfortunately, knowing which parts of planes should not be touched, and what a ladder looks like is a skill set that still needs some fine tuning.

According to this ABC News report, an inspector at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport used sensitive instrument probes as handholds while climbing into nine American Eagle airplanes. These TAT probes, pictured, are important to the operation of flight computers. As a result, 40 commuter flights were delayed.

At the time, the TSA agent was attempting to determine if the aircraft could be broken into and an agency official is quoted as saying “Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac.”

Next time, try using a ladder and a brick.

Other tales from the skies
Amazing and insane stories from a real-life flight attendant and co-pilot

Don’t wear that Transformers shirt through security

I hear a lot of complaints about the TSA, especially since the liquid bans were put into effect, but I’m usually pretty gentle with them. Most of the TSA officers seem to have the right intentions and are willing to work with you. Most of the time they’re just enforcing rules set by the DHS and you have no reason to give them a hard time.

This instance, however, is not one of them. Last week a guy traveling through London‘s Heathrow airport, a notoriously strict hub, got stopped and questioned for wearing a t-shirt with Megatron on it. If you’re not familiar with the program that was on the telly, Megatron is a fictional evil alien cartoon robot that’s on Transformers. A fictional cartoon robot with a gun for an arm.

Airport security didn’t like the fact that there was a gun on this guy’s t-shirt, so they made him change it, saying that they would arrest him if he put it back on.

Hey Chertoff: I know you don’t like depictions of weapons onboard your flights because someone could get confused and mistake it for the real thing. That’s fine. But this is a CARTOON ROBOT DRAWN ON A T-SHIRT. Don’t you think we could let this slide?

[Mind you, I realize that the TSA, proper, is not responsible for security at LHR — several commenters keep pointing that out. The UK’s own homeland security take care of screening at British terminals. The point is that the US & UK (and their respective agencies) share many ridiculous rules about prohibitions onto airplanes. Check out this article for a similar instance in the US. — GM]

Drunk pilot found naked, lost in woods

Well I guess we know why Kent hasn’t been posting for a few days.

Police found a Pinnacle Airlines pilot lost in the Pennsylvanian woods last night, out on a drinking binge with a flight attendant and running around naked.

Apparently they had been at dinner together and decided to “go do it in the woods” on the way back to their motel. Somehow, they got separated and the flight attendant found her way into the fire chief’s vehicle which was parked at his house, making enough noise to rouse the officer and for him to make an inquiry.

Meanwhile, the pilot managed to find a local woman and ask her for a pair of shorts, since he apparently left his in the woods. She promptly called 911 and the police and a helicopter soon found the pilot hiding behind a shed wearing only a wristwatch and a pair of sandals.

The pilot’s arraignment includes charges of indecent exposure, open lewdness, public drunkenness, loitering and prowling at night and disorderly conduct.

Pinnacle Airlines is owned by Northwest, the airline that incidentally happens to own Compass Airlines. You may recall that a Compass flight attendant intentionally started his aircraft on fire last week because he didn’t want to fly on a particular route.

I realize that morale is low with the merger and all, but what is going on with this airline?

He’s not the only nude, wild traveler: