Pilots are concerned that terrorists may try another air attack similar to 9/11 and are practicing now. KIRO 7 obtained an internal memo from the U.S. Airline Pilots Association warning about several recent incidents. Now there is even a congressional call for an investigation. Aviation experts say passengers and crews need to be vigilant at Sea-Tac Airport and other busy airports around the country.
"For me as a passenger, that's scary that they're doing that," passenger Vicki Flora said.
KIRO 7 showed travelers the memo at Sea-Tac. It says the incidents "appear to be probes, or dry-runs to test procedures" and that just last month, one happened on a U.S. Airways flight from Reagan National Airport to Orlando International. The memo said a group of "Middle Eastern males" caused a commotion on board. It says that after takeoff, one man ran toward the cockpit, then veered into the bathroom and stayed there for a while. Others changed seats and opened overhead bins, causing a scene and appearing to occupy and distract the flight attendants.
"It frightens you," passenger Trisha Trumble said. "If I was on that flight, I'd be frightened."
Wolf Koch, who flies Boeing 767s for Delta Air Lines and is the Aviation Security Committee chairman for the Air Line Pilots Association International, didn't mince words. "If a dry run's occurring, the attack will shortly follow," he said.
The TSA said in a statement that it takes all reports of suspicious activity on board aircraft seriously but did not go into detail about what happened to those men after the plane landed. It only said with assistance from law-enforcement officials, no further investigation was needed.
Aviation analyst John Nance told KIRO 7 that if this was a real threat, the TSA should tell the public. "Who were these people? What has the FBI done to make certain of who they are?" he asked. "It would be a gigantic mistake to try to keep this soft-pedaled for some misguided fear of hurting air traffic."
KIRO 7 emailed and called the TSA to ask more questions. But the TSA did not reply to an email. When KIRO 7 called, there was only a recorded message saying that due to reduced staffing levels because of the federal government shutdown, media may get a delayed response.