F-15's escort diverted Hawaiian Airlines flight - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

F-15's escort diverted Hawaiian Airlines flight

Peter Forman - Aviation expert Peter Forman - Aviation expert

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) - Hawaiian Airlines is downplaying an incident that prompted a pair of fighter jets to escort one of its planes to a mainland airport.

It involves flight 39 from Portland to Kahului. The TSA says a suspicious passenger made threatening remarks and refused to store his carryon bag. It was enough to make the crew nervous and the captain decided to return to Portland.

Not taking any chances the Portland National Guard Launched two F-15's to intercept the plane and escort it back, under the direction of North American Aerospace Defense Command.

A Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson says they were surprised the fighters were called and says that was an overreaction. Others agree.

"I think it is a bit of an overreaction, after all the cockpit was secure and the only good the jets can do is to protect the people on the ground if the cockpit is taken over," said Peter Forman, Aviation Expert. "More than anything after the December 25 incident we see the people in government primed to do something, they don't want to under react. I think it's just a matter of everybody really being on their toes right now."

The flight was about an hour and a half over the pacific when the captain turned it around.

The FBI says the disruptive passenger is a 56 year old man from Salem. He does not have any ties to terrorist groups. Neither does the woman he was traveling with. The case is turned over to the US Attorney's Office.

Flight 39 is back in the air and scheduled to land in Maui at 7:30.

Military officials say the F-15's were sent up as a precaution. Oregon's Governor Theodore Kulongoski defended the decision and praised the "swift response" of all the agencies involved.

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