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12 September 2010

CBS Radio Interview about Suspicious Passengers

Dr. Curtis was interviewed by CBS Radio News about the August 2010 detention of two passengers in Amsterdam on suspicion of being involved in some kind of terror related event. The passengers were later released because they had done nothing wrong.

On August 30th, 2010, two men, Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi and Hezam al-Murisi, who were both on their way to Yemen from the US, were arrested in Amsterdam after they had arrived on a flight from Chicago. They were arrested because they were suspected to be part of some kind of terror related activity, perhaps a dry run for an attempted bombing of an aircraft.

Al-Soofi had raised suspicion earlier in the day prior to his flight from Birmingham, Alabama to Chicago. After being chosen for additional screening, authorities found that he was carrying $7,000 in cash, and in his checked luggage were a cell phone taped to a small bottle, multiple cell phones and watches taped together, a knife, and a box cutter. Al-Soofi had violated no laws or regulations, so he was allowed to continue.

Later in Chicago, he had changed his flight, and his checked bags ended up going on a different flight. Coincidentally, Hezam al-Murisi, who also changed his flight to to one carrying Al-Soofi, also had his bags going on a different flight. US authorities asked Dutch authorities to detain the men, and they were both arrested after arriving in Amsterdam.

The CBS interview covered several subjects including whether the behavior of these passengers should have aroused suspicions. At the time of the interview, early reports suggested that they were traveling together. In fact, while the two were on the same flight out of Chicago, they did not know each other and were traveling independently, with only Al-Soofi starting his trip in Birmingham.

The Dutch authorities soon released both men, and dropped all charges. In short, although what the two men did during their trip looked unusual or even suspicious, they had done nothing wrong, and had broken no law or violated any regulation. The lesson to take away from this episode is that the US authorities, including TSA and Homeland Security, may be inclined to take all kinds of precautionary actions, including detaining passengers, if they suspect that someone is attempting to bring harm to an airplane flight.

Should passengers change their behavior to keep from being hassled? According to Dr. Curtis, that is a personal decision best left to individual passengers. In his opinion, you're free to act as suspicious as you want, just keep in mind that the price of freedom is an increased chance of being hassled or even detained.

Listen to the interview

Related Articles article on the attempted bombing
Description of four key US terrorist and TSA security databases
BBC interview with's Dr. Todd Curtis

08 September 2010

Russian Airliner Makes Emergency Landing at Abandoned Airport

7 September 2010; Alrosa Mirny Air Enterprise; Tu154M; RA-85684; flight 514, Izhma, Russia: The aircraft was on a scheduled domestic flight from Udachny to Moscow, Russia. While en route at about FL347 near over Usinsk, Russia, the aircraft experienced a complete electrical failure that resulted in a loss of navigational equipment, fuel pumps, and flaps.

Effects of loss of electrical power
The Tupolev Tu154 uses the electric pumps that move the fuel from wing and center section fuel tanks into an engine feed tank. Inoperative fuel pumps left the crew with just the usable fuel in the engine feed tank, which provided about 30 minutes of flying time. Although the flaps are hydraulically driven, the switches that control the flaps are electrically driven, preventing the crew from using flaps during any landing attempt.

Successful emergency landingThe crew chose to land the airplane at an abandoned runway near the town of Izhma. The runway is about 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) long, and the aircraft overran the runway by about 150-200 meters, plowing through trees and other vegetation, and coming to rest in soft ground. According to a report in, one of the passengers described the aircraft as “cutting the tree tops like a lawnmower.” None of the nine crew members or 72 passengers were injured.

News report on emergency landing

Shorter news report on emergency landing

Additional Information
Accident information from Wikipedia
Russian plane crashes

Comic relief and plane crashes
When planes crash and everyone walks away to fly again, the world breaths a sigh of relief. When there is a happy ending like with this Alrosa accident, one of the ways that the average person responds is with a bit of humor. The following cartoon depicting Mother Nature's reaction to the impending emergency landing was published by the TV-Novosti site

03 September 2010

UPS 747 Crash in Dubai Kills Crew

3 September 2010; United Parcel Service (UPS); 747-400F; N571UP; flight 6; Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The aircraft was on an international cargo flight from Dubai, UAE to Colonge, Germany, and crashed shortly after takeoff about 10 km (6.2 mi) north of the airport. The two crew members were killed.

About the Boeing 747
This was the second fatal plane crash involving 747-400 series. The only previous fatal crash of a 747-400 was a 2000 crash of a Singapore Airlines in Taipei, Taiwan. The various models of the 747 have been involved in 28 crashes that have resulted in the death of at least one passenger, and seven fatal crashes of cargo or military versions of the aircraft. The earliest fatal passenger plane crash was a 1974 Lufthansa accident in Nairobi, Kenya, and the most recent passenger crash was a 2005 Saudi Arabian Airlines crash in Sri Lanka. The most recent cargo crash was a 2008 accident in Colombia involving Kalitta Air that killed three people on the ground.

About United Parcel Service
United Parcel Service (UPS) has been offering air cargo services since the early 1980s. The current UPS fleet has well over 200 aircraft, including about a dozen 747s. This is the third UPS crash that destroyed an aircraft, and the first fatal crash for United Parcel Service.

Related resources
UPS plane crashes
747 plane crashes
UPS fleet

Graphic: Gulf News