Entries in US Airways (18)


'Miracle on the Hudson': Co-Pilot Sees Wreckage Four Years Later

Chris McGrath/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Four years ago on Tuesday, US Airways Flight 1549 had to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after the plane hit a flock of Canadian Geese and lost engine power.

In what's been deemed the "Miracle on the Hudson," Capt. Chesley Sully Sullenberger managed to land the aircraft safely on the river, saving the lives of the 155 passengers and crew members on board.

Today, the plane sits in a museum in Charlotte, N.C.  Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot of the flight, checked out the wreckage for the first time on Monday.

"It really is something to see frankly all the damage to it.  Because I never saw that," he said.

Skiles said that "everybody's life has changed in some way or another" from the Jan. 15, 2009 incident.

"I think or hope anyways for most of us it's been a good change. I know it has been for me," he said.

While he is currently on leave from US Airways to pursue other aviation interests, Skiles said he plans to return.

"When it comes down it I'm an airline pilot and in two years I'll be back in the cockpit at US Airways," he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Plane Bomb Hoax to 'Avenge' Compromising Photos, Cops Say

DFW International Airport Police(DALLAS) -- The motive behind a bomb hoax that caused a US Airways flight to turn back mid-trip was revenge for "compromising" pictures of an ex-girlfriend on Facebook, according to authorities.

Christopher Shell was on his way to Dallas to celebrate his 29th birthday on Thursday when his US Airways flight was turned around and forced to return to Philadelphia following a bomb scare.

A shocked Shell was handcuffed and led off the plane in a full-scale SWAT operation before authorities determined that the threat had been a hoax triggered by his ex-girlfriend's new beau.

"During his interview with law enforcement agents, [Shell] stated his belief that his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend 'Kenny' were responsible for making the phone call," according to a criminal complaint. The caller had accused Shell of boarding the plane with "liquid explosives."

"Kenny" turned out to be 26-year-old Kenneth Smith Jr. who authorities say "voluntarily stated that he was the person who called the Philadelphia Airport police posing as George Michaels," according to a criminal complaint.

"Smith stated that his motive for doing so was to 'avenge' [Shell's] ex-girlfriend, of whom [Shell] has posted a compromising picture on Facebook," the complaint stated.

If convicted, Smith faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and possible restitution. Smith is expected to make his first court appearance this afternoon.

Smith's girlfriend, who is Shell's ex-girlfriend, was not charged or identified by authorities and was released by authorities after questioning.

Investigators may continue to look for a third party to the illegal "vicious prank," authorities told ABC News.

Shell's terrible birthday only got worse.  After being searched, interviewed and cleared, Shell boarded another flight to Dallas. But when he arrived at the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, he was arrested by airport police on two outstanding warrants for possessing marijuana.

One warrant was for the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. The other was for the possession of less than 28 grams of a controlled substance.

Shell spent the night of his birthday at the DFW airport jail and was transferred to the custody of the Collin County Police this morning, according to the airport police.

The birthday may not be a total loss for Shell. Before his arrest on Thursday, Shell posted to Facebook that he was looking to sell an interview to the highest bidder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Plane Hoax Witness Said Ending Was 'Like Seal Team Six' -- "It was like Seal Team Six. The SWAT Team from Philly, they were pretty awesome," said Kurt Weber, a passenger on the Dallas-bound US Air flight that returned to Philadelphia Thursday because of a bomb hoax.

Weber, who was sitting in seat 4-D, got a front-row seat in the quick, surgical end to the bomb scare.

"We got on to the plane, it was a flight like every other flight I have taken, completely uneventful. And frankly, I took a nap. Before we taxied off the runway, I was asleep," Weber told ABC News.

"At some point, the pilot came over the intercom and told us he was having trouble with instruments and needed to return to Philly to evaluate the instruments," Weber said.

"At that point I was awake and I stayed awake," Weber said, "And as we landed there were a whole lot of emergency vehicles and police vehicles racing out and the girl next to me, said, 'I'm sure glad we are not going where those guys are going.' And then we wind up taxiing over to them."

"No one close to me had any inclination there was a threat," Weber, 54, said. Weber is a consultant for the Archery Trade Association and was on his way to a trade show when the drama occurred.

"These guys entered from the rear of the plane. Next thing I know it almost sounded like a stampede. Here are four Philadelphia SWAT guys, all in black with laser sights on their weapons, weapons drawn and focused on this guy.

"I can only imagine what SEAL Team Six was like. I wasn't in the military, but these guys were methodical and in seconds they had him in cuffs and on the ground," Weber said.

The targeted passenger, Christopher Shell, was taken into custody.

"Then the bomb techs got on the plane and the SWAT team took positions throughout the plane and authorities explained clearly to the passengers what had happened that led to the raid."

Weber said, "The pilot was calm, the flight attendants were calm and helpful."

"If you were to take a bad experience and try to paint it in as good a light as you could, these guys did it. And I have to give the passengers some credit. There was not a passenger on the plane who did not provide a full measure of cooperation. No one complained. No one got in the way," he said.

"I want to give these (SWAT) guys kudos. They really did a hell of a job," Weber said. "It turned out to be a hoax, but nobody knows that."

Shell was later cleared of any involvement in the threat and he had no explosives, authorities said. An ex-girlfriend of Shell and a man who is her current boyfriend are now in custody, police said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Police: Angry Ex-Girlfriend Triggered US Airways Bomb Hoax -- A bomb hoax in Philadelphia that turned a Dallas-bound flight around and led to a full-scale SWAT response was apparently triggered by a spiteful ex-girlfriend who telephoned authorities to say her former beau was aboard the US Air flight armed with liquid explosives, police told ABC News.

According to authorities, Christopher Shell, a salesman in his 20's who travels between Philadelphia and Dallas, had no explosives and is cooperating with authorities.

When asked how Shell reacted when police took him off the plane, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said at a news conference, "He was obviously very alarmed as I would be if heavily armed police entered a plane to take me off...he was certainly stunned."

However, in an unlikely coincidence, Shell had been sped through security by a friend at the airport and posted a message to his Facebook page that getting through security had been a breeze.

The note would have been innocuous in any other circumstance, officials said. In the context of the phoned-in threat alarms went off and bomb techs, cops, FBI agents and K-9 dogs descended on the flight and conducted a full search.

The ex-girlfriend and a man believed to be a current boyfriend are now in custody, sources said. According to sources, they appear to have perpetrated the hoax bomb threat and are being questioned by federal authorities in Philadelphia. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia would comment. No charges have been brought against anyone at this time, sources say.

"This is no joke," Sullivan said. "These will be federal charges...they're going to be very serious charges."

He said authorities did not yet have a motive for the hoax.

"It's just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do," he added. "And bottom line, it's criminal."

Philadelphia police received a call around 7 a.m. from a person stating that a specific individual had explosive liquid on him and was attempting to get it past TSA and onto the Dallas flight.

Authorities later discovered that the person implicated on the tip call was on the flight to Dallas that had departed at 7:39 a.m. and ordered it to return, according to ABC News' Philadelphia affiliate WPVI.

The man was being questioned, his luggage was searched and no explosives were found. No explosives were found on the plane.

All 69 passengers and five crew members on flight 1267 are safe.

"As soon as we had the situation on the plane secure, I did speak to all the passengers and they were briefed as to what was going on," Sullivan said. "All the passengers were extremely cooperative and very understanding, despite the fact that they were all shaken up."

Philadelphia police officers, FBI bomb technicians and SWAT officers boarded the plane once it had landed and was moved to a safe location. The flight was deemed safe and able to depart for its destination.

"It was a hoax all the way through," one official involved in the investigation told ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Airways Planes Were in No Danger of Colliding, Feds Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The three US Airways Express planes that were reportedly involved in a near-miss incident at Washington's Reagan National Airport were in no danger of colliding, federal transportation officials said this afternoon.

The Washington Post reported earlier that the planes, carrying a total of 192 passengers and crew members, came within 12 seconds of a mid-air collision.

The incident occurred Tuesday at about 2 p.m. when air traffic controllers put two departing commuter jets alarmingly close to a third plane that was set to land, according to The Post. All the flights reached their destination without mishap.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today said the planes were never on course for a "head-to-head" collision.

He singled out a controller who jumped in when she realized there was a loss of separation among the planes. "The controller did what she was trained to do and we are very proud of her," he said.

Michael Huerta, the acting federal aviation administrator, added that all three of the planes are equipped with collision-avoidance technology that never sounded an alarm during the flights.

An ABC News employee on the flight that took off to the north while another flight was preparing to land to the south observed nothing out of the ordinary and said the takeoff and subsequent flight were normal.

The airline said it is working with the FAA to determine what happened.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement today that it will "investigate the air-traffic-control incident at Reagan National Airport on July 31. It will involve review of communications recordings and radar data, as well as interviews with supervisors and controllers at DCA and Potomac TRACON over the next few days."

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said safety is its top priority. "We are always looking to enhance the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System, and we will participate in any investigation that looks into improving the system," the controllers' union said in a statement.

According to the Post, an air traffic control official at Reagan National was heard asking the pilot of the inbound flight, "Are you with me?"

"We were cleared at the river there, what happened?" the pilot asked.

"Stand by, we're trying to figure this out," the tower replied.

"We really don't have enough fuel here for this. We have to get on the ground pretty quick," the pilot said.

In 2011, an air traffic control person at Reagan National fell asleep on the job and failed to respond to pilots trying to land at the airport, according to The Washington Post.

"We will always have human error," ABC News aviation analyst John Nance said, "but the air traffic control doesn't have money to build a high-tech system to alert folks when errors are made."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Near Midair Collision Between Three Jets Prompts FAA Investigation

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into an incident, first reported by the Washington Post, in which three airplanes nearly collided midair at Reagan National Airport Tuesday afternoon.

The newspaper reported on Wednesday that an incoming US Airways jet that was cleared for landing ended up flying directly towards two departing US Airways jets after it had been rerouted.  A storm that brought a change in wind patterns prompted air traffic controllers to reverse the flow of traffic around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

A collision was avoided -- by about 12 seconds, according to the Post -- between the inbound plane and the first of the two outbound planes when an air traffic controller recognized the mistake and ordered the inbound flight to change course.

The FAA, which was alerted to the near mishap by the newspaper, issued a statement Wednesday night explaining the situation.

"DCA (Reagan National Airport) had been landing and departing aircraft on Runway 1, from the south to the north.  Due to the bad weather developing, the Tracon (Terminal Radar Approach Control) was switching operations to land and depart aircraft from the north to the south on Runway 19.  During the switchover of operations, miscommunication between the Tracon and the DCA tower led to a loss of the required separation between two regional jets departing from Runway 1 and a regional jet inbound for Runway 19," the FAA said.

"Preliminary information indicates that the closest proximity was 1.45 nm lateral and 500 ft. vertical for the first plane departing Runway 1 and 2.42 nm lateral and 600 ft. vertical for the second plane," the agency noted.  Standard separation requirements are 3 nm lateral and 1,000 ft. vertical.

The FAA said it was "investigating the incident and will take appropriate action to address the miscommunication."

The National Transportation Safety Board, which was also made aware of the report, said on Wednesday it was in the process of gathering information to determine whether it too will launch an investigation.

US Airways, the airline reportedly involved in the incident, issued a statement saying it was looking into the matter and working with the FAA to determine what happened.

"The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority," the carrier said.

According to the Washington Post, 192 passengers and crew members were aboard the three planes.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scare at Philadelphia Airport Prompts Investigation

Hemera/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Authorities raced to Philadelphia International Airport on Tuesday afternoon when the pilot of a commuter jet appeared to either have spotted or heard a bottle rocket or flare explode near his plane.

The plane, initially identified as a US Airways turbo prop originating in Elmira, N.Y., landed safely just before 2 p.m. A commuter runway was briefly closed down. It has since reopened, officials said. According to a US Airways spokesperson, the plane was carrying 34 passengers and three crew members.

FBI and Philadelphia police on scene report that the incident occurred during the plane's approach to the airport over a wooded area. They told ABC News it was not clear whether there was any intent to hit the plane.

Authorities are still trying to identify what kind of projectile was fired. No arrests have been made.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


International Flight Bound for US Diverted for Security Concerns

US Air(WASHINGTON) -- A US Airways flight from Paris continued its journey to Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday after it was diverted to Bangor, Maine, because of "suspicious behavior" by a female passenger.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC News that the passenger, an unidentified woman born in Cameroon and traveling alone for a 10-day trip to the U.S., had passed a note to the flight crew saying that she had a surgically implanted device in her.

King said that when doctors examined the woman, they found no signs of recent scars. He said she had no checked baggage.

Another congressional official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the note had been written in French and did not mention a bomb.

The Transportation Security Administration said the passenger was being interviewed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.

Andrew Christie of US Airways confirmed to ABC News that Flight 787 with 179 passengers and nine crew members onboard had been diverted around noon to Bangor International Airport because of a "security issue."

According to the TSA, the flight was redirected "out of an abundance of caution."

John Cornello, the spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told ABC News that it had launched two F-15s from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to intercept the US Airways aircraft.  

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Unruly Passenger Forces Emergency Landing in Boston

USAir[dot]com(BOSTON) -- A plane made an emergency landing at Boston’s Logan Airport Thursday after a passenger became unruly and attempted to open a cabin door in flight, ABC News affiliate WCVB reported.

The passenger had to be restrained by other fliers, according to Massport, the agency that runs Logan Airport.

Air Wisconsin flight 3801, flying from Portland, Maine, to Philadelphia and carrying 50 passengers, landed safely.  Air Wisconsin is a regional airline that flies for US Airways.

The crew became concerned with a passenger’s behavior and ordered the landing in Boston. The passenger may have been suffering from a medical issue.

The passengers were not in danger of the cabin door opening during the flight. After a rash of unruly passenger behavior in 2011, an American Airlines spokesperson told USA Today, “It’s not possible to open an aircraft door in-flight.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Passenger Stands On Seven Hour Flight

USAir[dot]com(PHILADELPHIA) -- Arthur Berkowitz was buckled into his aisle seat and ready for take-off on a flight from Anchorage to Philadelphia when a morbidly obese man boarded the airplane at the last minute and headed toward the vacant middle seat which separated Berkowitz and a young exchange student on the otherwise full flight.

"He was very apologetic," Berkowitz, 57, told ABC News. "When he boarded, he said: 'I'm your worst nightmare.'"

Those words turned out to be prophetic for Berkowitz, who said he was forced to stand for most of the seven hour flight, which he took on July 29.

"During takeoff and landing, I was wedged into my seat and unable to belt it," he said. "The man next to me was resting on top of the seat belt."

Other than takeoff and landing, he said he spent the seven hour flight standing in the aisle and galley area.

Berkowitz said he is speaking out about his ordeal now because he believes US Airways did not properly address his concerns.

"My issue first and foremost is that this was a safety issue," Berkowitz said. "The airlines and regulatory bodies need to have protocol when it comes to this."

He said he brought the problem of his large seatmate to the flight attendants' attention and asked if he could sit in one of their jump seats.

They apologized and said there was nothing they could do and that sitting in their seats was against FAA regulations.

"We have attempted to address this customer's service concerns, but offering increasing amounts of compensation based on a threat of a safety violation isn't really fair -- especially when the passenger himself said he didn't follow the crew members' instructions and fasten his seat belt," John McDonald, a US airways spokesperson, told ABC News.

"We realize it is inconvenient, but it is our obligation to be safe," McDonald said.

Berkowitz said he brought complaint to the attention of the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

"They've done next to nothing other than to acknowledge they received [my letters]," he said.

US Airways, for their part, said they have discussed Berkowitz's complaints with the crew members who were on the flight.

Berkowitz, a frequent flyer, isn't satisfied.

"They say they want to give passengers comfort and convenience," he said. "Well, this is as inconvenient and uncomfortable as you can get."

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, who tried to help Berkowitz mediate his complaint, said travelers need to communicate, especially during the busy holiday travel season.

If the direct communication doesn't work, Elliott said passengers should talk to a flight attendant. Above that, they can appeal to the lead purser.

"The final level of appeal on the flight would be to talk to the pilot," Elliott said. "Pilots have the final say."

Beyond that, he recommends passengers immediately put their complaints in writing and submit them to the airline when they land.

"Airlines say they're giving us what we want -- low fares," Elliott said. "But we haven't also asked to be tortured. This is a form of torture."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio