Keeping in mind that the news reports are still coming in, let’s talk about what we know so far about the smokes-on-a-plane story developing at Denver International Airport.
From what has been reported it appears that a Qatari man, possibly a diplomat, was arrested after making a comment about trying to light his shoe on fire, after he was caught smoking in the lavatory (facts are still trickling in). With Richard Reid, the notorious shoe bomber of 2001 who is responsible for making us all wear clean socks when we fly and the Christmas underwear bomber still on our minds, authorities responded as they should have. You take this situation seriously.
Granted, the news stations are devoting a ton of time to this, but maybe it’s just a slow news day. The reality is this: (a) you don’t make jokes about bombs on a plane or in the airport; (b) the FBI should take this seriously because you never know if this is a test-run by a criminal or terrorist element, and even if it isn’t, those elements are watching carefully how authorities are responding; (c) it looks like DIA is doing things right, as opposed to the Christmas bomb incident which was rife with miscommunications and missteps in the airline and airport responses.
Once notified of the threat, F-16’s were scrambled and the plane landed quickly and was moved to an isolated parking position. It did NOT go to the main terminal as did the Northwest flight on Christmas. The isolated parking position is inline with ICAO protocols and keeps the terminal safe if there really is a bomb on the plane. Also, putting the plane in the IPP helps authorities control the scene.
Passengers are being interviewed, bags and the airplane are searched by explosive detection entities — two other things that did not happen when they should have in Detroit. At the end of the day, this may turn out to be nothing but a good exercise for TSA, FBI, DIA and United Airlines personnel in a bomb threat, but we don’t know that. It should be treated as serious as an actual threat until it’s confirmed that it is not.