But The Other Guy Ought To Scare Everybody...
By ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin "Hognose" O'Brien
Internet message boards for the last few days have seethed with
a story of British Airways Flight 215 -- service from London
Heathrow (ELHR) to Boston Logan (KBOS) -- on Sunday, April 3rd. Was
a terrorist on board? Is there a cover-up in the works? The truth
is a lot more simple than that -- but finding the truth led us to a
real would-be suicide bomber who's case isn't getting the
coverage it deserves.
The claim that has agitated the fever swamps of the net is that
a "middle-eastern-looking" passenger was removed from the flight by
security men with automatic weapons, and then the flight was
delayed for five hours. Yet there was nothing on it in ordinary
news outlets. That's where we come in. Was it true? Where did it
The Source Of The Story
Second question first. It turns out that the net debate seems to have been
stirred up by this post on the blog Cynical
Nation. Barry N. Johnson, whose brother-in-law was on
the plane, posted the information his brother was able to learn on
"It seems his plane was stormed by agents with machine guns, who
seized a Middle Eastern passenger from my brother-in-law's row and
removed him from the plane.
This is happening as I type this. The wonders of modern
technology. More to follow, no doubt...." Johnson posted Sunday
afternoon. And indeed, more followed. "Multiple passengers were
removed from the plane by force. My brother-in-law is now off the
plane as well, but he has been herded into some special area at
After going through several iterations of delays, the passengers
finally were allowed to reboard -- minus the initial one carted off
by MI-5 or whomever -- about five hours behind schedule.
The good news is, all the engines were running.
Meanwhile, speculation was running wild, on FreeRepublic,
LittleGreenFootballs, and other popular sites that linked to
Johnson's blog, as well as in the deep recesses of conspiracy
The Airline Tells Its Story
So, we called British Airways and
did get a call back from BA spokesman John Lampl. And as Lampl
explained it, the whole story came into clear focus, including how
it could have looked like it did to Johnson's brother-in-law.
According to Lampl, as the door closed a passenger got upset and
demanded to be left off the plane. Police came and took him along
for questioning, but he was the furthest thing possible from a
suicide terrorist -- the poor guy was simply afraid to fly. His
brother, who doesn't share his phobia, was traveling with him.
I've heard experienced captains talk about incidents like this
before, and occasionally you encounter a story of a timid flyer who
flees from the terminal and abandons a flight that ultimately
crashes, so they're out there.
With the passenger off the plane, and not going to fly, the
airline had to find and remove his luggage, which took considerable
The other passengers -- including the brother -- resumed their
flight to Boston about five hours late. The crew was able to make
up about an hour enroute, so arrival was delayed some four
After a brief investigation that confirmed the bona fides of the
frightened passenger, he was released by the Metropolitan Police.
So that's the explanation -- for Barry Johnson, his brother-in-law,
and anybody curious about that.
Lampl said that neither the police nor the airline would release
the passenger's name. After all, he's committed no crime, although
he inconvenienced a lot of people. It's hard not to feel sorry for
anybody so paralyzed by fear as that.
And Then, There's This Story
While it's easy to see why most of
the news media didn't cover BA Flight 215 -- after all, nothing
happened that doesn't happen somewhere in the world on a weekly
basis -- it's a little bit harder to see why the US media haven't
picked up the story of the dramatic Old Bailey trial that resulted
from an earlier BA flight, from Caracas, Venezuela to Gatwick on
February 13, 2003, and the events that resulted when a routine
customs search found an American M26 hand grenade (a Vietnam-era
weapon) in Hazil Rahaman-Alan's checked luggage.
The grenade was concealed in the transformer of a knee
Rahaman-Alan entered a guilty plea to charges stemming from the
incident, and he has made a variety of unusual statements.
According to Nicholas Dean, QC, the prosecutor, "He said the
grenade would be his microphone to the world" and planned to
conduct some type of suicide bombing.
Just not on the plane.
The would-be bomber also said he wanted to help humanity and the
children of the world (with a grenade?), and Dean said he didn't
stop there. "At one point he said he wished to help improve airport
When your phone doesn't ring, Mr Rahaman-Alan, that will be the
TSA not calling you for help.
Most of the stories in the British press mention that Hazil
Rahaman-Alan is a Venezualan citizen, but if you read enough of
them, you realize that his family's real roots are in Saudi Arabia.
His father, who is deceased, was a spokesman for the Saudi embassy
in Caracas. Rahaman-Alan had studied in a Saudi madrassa, and was
described as extremely religious, but he denies any connection to
Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers
were Saudis, and all of them were adherents of the radical, (often)
violent Wahabbi sect of Islam that is taught in the madrassas
It's hard to form any conclusions about Rahaman-Alan, except
that, if he is a terrorist, his masters must be getting close to
the bottom of the barrel. He had been ripped off by the black
marketeer who sold him the grenade: while he thought that he had a
live weapon, an examination by British experts revealed that it
wouldn't have functioned, having the detonator removed and the
explosive filling replaced with an inert material.
If he'd just held off till this week -- British was one of the
first airlines to return deadly weapons to the cabin. Yes, you now
get a metal fork with an inflight meal.