Muslim Mayhem on AirTran Jetliner-Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:


This eRumor is said to be from a man who was aboard an airplane about to depart from Atlanta, Georgia when there was a disturbance which he describes as prompted by a group of 11 “Muslim men got on the plane in full attire” and “peppered themselves throughout the plane.” They created a disturbance that included loud cell phone conversations, the showing of a porn video on a portable player, calling a flight attendant “an infidel dog.” The writer claims that he and another passenger helped physically escort the eleven men toward the exit of the airplane where they were met by 3 TSA agents and 4 police officers to took the men away. Later, however, the men were allowed to reboard the airplane at which point several of the passengers and the entire crew got off in protest and said they would not fly when the men on the plane. The writer of the eRumor says all of the men were talking in Arabic and speculates whether this was a dry-run for a terrorist attack.

The Truth:

This story has taken a lot of twists and turns.

This eRumor turned out to be from an email that was sent to friends by a man named Ted Petruna from Houston, Texas. One of the forwarded emails that we received including his email address and we contacted him to ask about the story.

Mr. Petruna told us that he sent this to a few friends and that he never intended for it to become so widely distributed.   As we looked more thoroughly into the story, some of the details related by Petruna were in conflict with what we were told by Air Tran airlines and local media accounts.

Then in an interview with a Houston television station, Petruna changed some of the story saying, for example, he did not see the man who he said had been watching porn and that he did not stand behind his description of the attire of the group of foreigners.

Then on 12/4/09 Air Tran issued a statement saying that they had checked the flight manifest and “that the individual that allegedly created a first-hand account of events on-board Air Tran Airways flight 297, a Theodore Petruna, was never actually on-board the flight.”

According to the report, the flight that Petruna was on from Ohio landed in Atlanta 26 minutes after AirTran 297 left the gate. This caused him to miss his connection and his “eyewitness account” is a fabricated hoax.   Click for AirTran Breaking News Update

AirTran spokesman Christopher White confirmed that an incident take place on November 17, 2009 aboard AirTran flight 297, which was scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Houston, Texas. White told that the incident was a result of a passenger who was unable to understand and comply with instructions from flight attendants because he did not speak English. The passenger was part of a group of foreign travelers and did have a translator who but he was sitting several rows behind, according to published reports. White also told that in no way was the passenger suspected of any terrorist plot or activities and that no TSA agents or police officers boarded the plane when it returned to the terminal.

According to a report by the NBC News affiliated in Atlanta, GA, here is a chain events that led to the incident of Flight 297:

A group of 12 “non-English speaking” passengers and their translator boarded the AirTran flight to Houston in Atlanta.

When the plane began to taxi to the runway one of the non-English speakers was spotted by a flight attendant using his cellular phone. His translator was many rows back so was unable to tell the caller of the Federal Aviation Administration rules that requires all electronic devices to be turned off during take off and landing.

Not understanding what the flight attendant was saying, the caller continued his conversation. This resulted in the flight attendant alerting the captain of the jetliner, who decided to return the plane to the terminal.

Once safely at the terminal, the caller and the translator were asked to exit the aircraft and the rest of the non-English speaking group followed. When the mix-up was all sorted out all members of the group were allowed to return to the aircraft which was still at the terminal. At that time, twelve other passengers who were waiting on the plane “decided they didn’t want to fly on the plane and they all got off.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident but nobody was detained and no charges were filed.

Click for NBC Story.

updated 12/05/09

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

One week ago, I went to Ohio on business and to see my father. On Tuesday, November the 17th, I returned home. If you read the papers the 18th you may have seen a blurb where a AirTran flight was cancelled from Atlanta to Houston due to a man who refused to get off of his cell phone before takeoff. It was on Fox.

I was in 1st class coming home. 11 Muslim men got on the plane in full attire. 2 sat in 1st class and the rest peppered themselves throughout the plane all the way to the back. As the plane taxied to the runway the stewardesses gave the safety spiel we are all so familiar with. At that time, one of the men got on his cell and called one of his companions in the back and proceeded to talk on the phone in Arabic very loudly and very aggressively. This took the 1st stewardess out of the picture for she repeatedly told the man that cell phones were not permitted at the time.. He ignored her as if she was not there.

The 2nd man who answered the phone did the same and this took out the 2nd stewardess. In the back of the plane at this time, 2 younger Muslims, one in the back, isle, and one in front of him, window, began to show footage of a porno they had taped the night before, and were very loud about it. Now they are only permitted to do this prior to Jihad. If a Muslim man goes into a strip club, he has to view the woman via mirror with his back to her. (don’t ask me .I don’t make the rules, but I’ve studied) The 3rd stewardess informed them that they were not to have electronic devices on at this time. To which one of the men said ?shut up infidel dog!? She went to take the camcorder and he began to scream in her face in Arabic. At that exact moment, all 11 of them got up and started to walk the cabin. This is where I had had enough! I got up and started to the back where I heard a voice behind me from another Texan twice my size say I got your back.  I grabbed the man who had been on the phone by the arm and said you WILL go sit down or you Will be thrown from this plane! As I led him around me to take his seat, the fellow Texan grabbed him by the back of his neck and his waist and headed out with him. I then grabbed the 2nd man and said, You WILL do the same! He protested but adrenaline was flowing now and he was going to go. As I escorted him forward the plane doors open and 3 TSA agents and 4 police officers entered. Me and my new Texan friend were told to cease and desist for they had this under control. I was happy to oblige actually. There was some commotion in the back, but within moments, all 11 were escorted off the plane. They then unloaded their luggage.

We talked about the occurrence and were in disbelief that it had happen, when suddenly, the door open again and on walked all 11!! Stone faced, eyes front and robotic (the only way I can describe it). The stewardess from the back had been in tears and when she saw this, she was having NONE of it! Being that I was up front, I heard and saw the whole ordeal. She told the TSA agent there was NO WAY she was staying on the plane with these men. The agent told her they had searched them and were going to go through their luggage with a fine tooth comb and that they were allowed to proceed to Houston . The captain and co-captain came out and told the agent we and our crew will not fly this plane! After a word or two, the entire crew, luggage in tow, left the plane. 5 minutes later, the cabin door opened again and a whole new crew walked on.

Again.. this is where I had had enough!!! I got up and asked What the hell is going on!!?? I was told to take my seat. They were sorry for the delay and I would be home shortly. I said I’m getting off this plane. The stewardess sternly told me that she could not allow me to get off. (now I’m mad!) I said I am a grown man who bought this ticket, who’s time is mine with a family at home and I am going through that door, or I’m going through that door with you under my arm!! But I am going through that door!! And I heard a voice behind me say so am I. Then everyone behind us started to get up and say the same. Within 2 minutes, I was walking off that plane where I was met with more agents who asked me to write a statement. I had 5 hours to kill at this point so why the hell not. Due to the amount of people who got off that flight, it was cancelled. I was supposed to be in Houston at 6pm. I got here at 12:30am.

Look up the date. Flight 297 Atlanta to Houston.

If this wasn’t a dry run, I don’t know what one is. They wanted to see how TSA would handle it, how the crew would handle it, and how the passengers would handle it.

I’m telling this to you because I want you to know.

The threat is real. I saw it with my own eyes