A US Airways passenger plane had to be diverted after a young Jewish man's prayer items sparked a bomb scare.
Passengers on the US Airways plane raised the alarm
The Kentucky-bound flight was forced into a premature landing after cabin crew became alarmed when the 17-year-old began using Tefillin, a small set of black boxes containing religious passages.
When used in prayer, one box is placed on the head and one box is attached to the arm with leather strapping.
Fellow passengers raised the alarm before cabin crew decided to make the emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport.
Once landed, the teenager, who was travelling with his 16-year-old sister, was removed from the plane by security personnel and after satisfying security measures the flight was allowed to continue its journey.
Frances Winchell, the teenager's grandmother who was waiting for him at Louisville International Airport, said: "He hadn't had the opportunity to pray, so that is why he did it on the plane.
"But in any event, all is well that ends well and maybe some good will come to the world because of it."
Concerns about passengers carrying bombs have been heightened since a man was accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound flight using explosives concealed in his underwear on Christmas Day.
Dad Speaks Out On Airplane Prayer Scare Suggests Religious Sensitivity Training
We're learning more about just what happened when a flight made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on Thursday morning.
And we got our first glimpse of the innocent teenager who put authorities on high alert.
The flight was diverted to Philadelphia International Airport and landed around 8:50 a.m. due to a suspected explosive onboard.
It turned out it was actually a prayer box. Rabbi Ira Stone from Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel explained to
MyFoxPhilly what a Tefillin is and how it may have caused confusion on the plane.
"They're called Tefillin, the Hebrew plural for the word filla, which means prayer," Stone said. "They contain within them some parchments that contain words from the Holy Scriptures."
If one travels on El Al airlines, for example, one would see a dozen people standing up in the morning.”
Passengers who were detained at the airport Thursday morning had all reached their destinations by Thursday night, but a lot of them were wondering how this could have happened in the first place.
The boy and his sister finally arrived in Kentucky on Thursday night. He and his sister left New York on a commuter flight Thursday morning.
The pilot diverted the flight after a flight attendant on the plane said she saw him using a prayer box and thought it was an explosive.
The airplane taxied to a remote location. Police and bomb technicians boarded the plane, and officers quickly figured out the object was not an explosive.
"When you get information that there's someone on the plane who's wearing a device, and they describe it as wires being connected to two different parts of the device, immediately you look at – you think of the worst-case scenario," police Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan said.
It turned out the teenager was attempting to pray with a prayer box known as a Tefillin.
His cousin showed news cameras Thursday night just how it attaches to your head and arm to pray.
"There's one for your arm and one for your head. This is the one for your head. So, you put it on like this, and the strap's going to pull across your body," said Zev Winchell, the teen's cousin.
Passengers on the flight were delayed and then questioned by the FBI on the ground in Philly.
In Louisville, some said Thursday night they felt airlines need to be better trained to recognize the difference between a religious object and a bomb.
"I think the airlines need to have some kind of sensitivity training toward religious beliefs so that someone's not confused about praying while they're flying. And maybe that will prevent that in the future," said passenger Joseph Satterly.
And the Philadelphia police chief inspector said he is very pleased with how his officers responded to what could have been a potential emergency
"We're in very precarious times, and it requires a different kind of playbook," Sullivan said.
On Thursday night, the father of the teen at the center of the incident spoke out about what his son says happened.
Glen Leibowitz said his son told him, "The man, you know, with a gun had taken them both off of the plane. They put them in handcuffs and then loaded them into a van. And they then quickly realized it was a horrible overreaction on the part of the stewardess."
The boy and his sister were in Louisville with their grandmother Thursday night.
Dad Speaks Out On Airplane Prayer Scare
"I think the airlines need to have some kind of sensitivity training toward religious beliefs so that someone's not confused about praying while they're flying. And maybe that will prevent that in the future," said passenger Joseph Satterly."
The airlines do have and train their crew members to recognize and respect different cultures and customs!" The passengers must realize not every religious nuance is going to be recognized by the flight attendants or the pilots.
It is the passengers responsibility to advise the flight crew or agents when they fly that they have a “special need concern or religious action” that they adhere to before or during flight (Primarily in the U.S.). This way the crew can accommodate the passenger’s wishes or assist in giving them the privacy they need to observe a religious practice.
As a former flight attendant and now a pilot I can say with absolute experience, passengers already think that the airplane is a restaurant, living room and their own private bathroom! FYI!
The airplane is a public community and nothing is completely yours! When passengers start planning ahead and being proactive and recognizing that there are things in the world that be looked at differently than what once was, then and only then will airline travel be a better experience!
Don't worry though I won't be holding my breath for the American airline traveler!!! I have a better chance at meeting the Pope!!!
Remember To Be Proactive And Not Reactive and enjoy your flight!!!