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Hawaii Air National Guard scrambles fighters to escort American Airlines jet into Honolulu


An F-22 Raptor from the 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard. Air National Guard File Photo

An F-22 Raptor from the 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard. Air National Guard File Photo

Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) operations at Honolulu International Airport have returned to normal following an in-flight incident aboard an American Airlines flight from LAX to HNL Friday (May 19).

All airport security stakeholders were notified and were standing by on the ground to respond if needed. The Hawaii Air National Guard scrambled fighter planes to escort the American Airlines jet into Honolulu International.

The incident involving an unruly passenger on a plane en route to the Honolulu International Airport is a federal matter and being handled by federal authorities. The sheriffs along with other law enforcement agencies responded to the scene as is normal procedure. The Sheriffs do not have anyone in their custody at this time.

The plane involved in the in-flight incident has been cleared of passengers and is being checked by an explosive operations detection unit.

There is currently a 30-minute backlog caused by the halting of all ground movements on the airfield as the flight came in. We expect this backlog should be resolved by the end of the peak travel window early this afternoon.

UPDATED (10 a.m. on 5/24/2017)

Complaint Filed And Initial Appearance Held For Anil Uskanli

HONOLULU – Anil Uskanli, age 25, of Turkey, had his Initial Appearance today on a Criminal Complaint that was signed over the weekend and filed this morning in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. The Complaint charges him with one count of Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants. That crime carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Acting United States Attorney Elliot Enoki said that, according to the Complaint, on May 19, 2017, Uskanli boarded American Airlines Flight 31 from Los Angeles International Airport, bound for Honolulu International Airport. In the course of the flight, Uskanli got up to use the restroom, but did not lock the door to the lavatory, and became agitated, yelled, and pounded on the walls when a fellow passenger entered the lavatory. After this incident, the pilot executed a level 1 security measure, locking down the flight deck. Thereafter, Uskanli again got up from his seat, wrapped a blanket around his head, and took his laptop to the front area of the plane. A flight attendant used a drink cart to block Uskanli from advancing any further toward the cockpit. When Uskanli tried to push the drink cart down the aisle toward the front of the plane, the flight attendant asked nearby passengers for assistance. Once several passengers stood up, Uskanli put the laptop on the drink cart and walked back to his seat. The flight attendants were frightened of the laptop, due to recent information about laptops potentially posing a threat to airplane security because such devices may contain explosives.

An off-duty law enforcement officer walked with Uskanli back to his seat. The law enforcement officer and Uskanli remained in the seats for the rest of the flight. Flight attendants followed protocol for handling of possible explosive materials. They also alerted the captain of the events, and the captain then implemented a level 4 emergency. Two military fighter jets from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam were dispatched to escort the flight to safe landing.

The aircraft landed safely at Honolulu International Airport at 11:35 a.m. Bomb technicians worked to secure the plane. K-9 units were deployed to sweep the aircraft. All passengers and carry-on bags were rescreened, and checked bags inspected by a TSA Explosive Detection Canine Team. No explosives were discovered.

The Honorable Barry M. Kurren, United States Magistrate Judge, ordered the proceedings suspended pending the outcome of a competency evaluation.

The charges contained in the Complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the State of Hawaii Department of Public Safety Sheriff’s Office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Airport Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Morgan Early.

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