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Full-Scale Investigation Launched Into ‘Terror Error’ At JFK Airport

Port Authority Probing Incident; Report Could Provide Answers By Week's End
JFK Plane Scare Sept. 17 (credit: CBS 2)

JFK Plane Scare Sept. 17 (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Major questions are being raised after a plane suspected of carrying terrorists and explosives was mistakenly allowed to go to the gate instead of being sent to an isolated impound area last week.

Two packed planes were isolated on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy Airport last Monday after authorities got calls claiming there were bombs on the planes and terrorists in the wheel wells.

However, there apparently was a huge mix up during the incident.

Sources told CBS 2 the wrong plane was sent to the impound area and the plane that received the threat was allowed to taxi right up to the gate.

“It’s a big danger,” security expert Robert Strang told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

The threat turned out to be a hoax, but Strang said if it had been a real terror situation, it could have wrecked havoc in the secure zone at JFK and possibly other airports all over the world.

“If you have terrorists infiltrate that zone, they can get in planes. Not only in that airport, but then they can take planes to other airports and get in other airplanes and it’s something we’ve thought about, something we know is a big problem,” Strang said.

Sources told CBS 2 that the threat from an unidentified caller named two planes — an American Airlines flight from from San Francisco and a Finnair flight from Chicago. But there was also a Finnair flight from Helsinki landing at the same time.

The Helsinki flight was mistakenly put in quarantine, sources said, and the Chicago Finnair flight was allowed to go to the gate. Officials dodged a bullet because the call was a hoax, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.

Kramer asked Strang what terrorists could be capable of, given such a misstep by officials.

“They can do anything because remember if you’ve got terrorists on an airplane and now they’re in a hub in any airport, they can go from hub to hub in that airport as long as they don’t have to go back out…past TSA, out past security. They can travel quite a bit, they can infiltrate so many different airports in so many different countries — all within a 24-hour period,” Strang said.

The Port Authority Inspector General is investigating the incident to see who made the mistake and misdirected the plane.

The report is expected by the end of the week.

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