Two flights from Chicago were grounded Friday because of security questions, one of them after what was described as a “credible threat” was phoned in, authorities and airline officials said.
One of the incidents was determined to be non-threatening, authorities said, but the other was being taken seriously because of specific information that was included in the telephoned bomb threat.
That flight, Southwest Airlines 1003, was en route to Phoenix when the threat was received from a pay telephone within the Chicago city limits, the Chicago Aviation Department and Chicago police told NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV of Chicago. The flight turned around and returned to Midway Airport less than an hour after it took off at 3:05 p.m. (4:05 p.m. ET).
Airline officials, noting the specific information, notified the Federal Aviation Administration, and air traffic controllers ordered the plane to return. The 123 passengers were put aboard another flight while the plane was searched in a secure location away from the terminal.
No bomb had been found by early Friday evening.
Separately, United Airlines told WMAQ that United Express Flight 7129 from O'Hare International Airport was grounded upon its arrival Friday morning in Omaha, Neb., after a flight attendant found a ball of putty with wires in it.
The plane was searched by agents of the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration, who determined that the substance was harmless, NBC affiliate WOWT-TV of Omaha reported. The plane was later cleared to fly.
Airlines have endured a spate of flight cancellations since late last month, when U.S. authorities raised the nation’s terror threat assessment level to “high.” They said fresh intelligence information indicated that the al-Qaida terror network was planning to use hijacked planes in new attacks reminiscent of the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes, which killed about 3,000 people.
The threat level was restored to “elevated” Friday.
By Alex Johnson of MSNBC.com