It was approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday when a call was received at Philadelphia police airport headquarters from a person stating that a specific individual would attempt to get past TSA and board a flight to somewhere in Texas with a dangerous and hazardous substance.
Police say that information was immediately given to the FBI and TSA. It was then confirmed that the individual implicated on the tip call was on US Airways flight 1267 that had already departed at 7:39 a.m. to Dallas.
The decision was made jointly by police, FBI and US Airways to order the Airbus A-319 to return to the airport.
The flight arrived back in Philadelphia where officials boarded the plane and secured the man in question.
Philadelphia Police Inspector Joe Sullivan explained at a press briefing Thursday morning that, "At that time we checked him and his carry-on luggage, and determined that he was not in possession of anything dangerous, hazardous or illegal."
The male was then transferred into FBI custody and removed from the scene for further questioning. Several passengers sitting near the man in question were briefly re-interviewed at the scene.
Bomb technicians and bomb sniffing dogs conducted a very thorough search of the plane and around 9:30 a.m. the all clear was given. By that time, however, some of the flight's 69 passengers chose to book other flights.
"There was no emergency. There was a threat, but that threat was unfounded," said Inspector Sullivan. "That flight was never in any danger. And I just want to stress right now that the male that was briefly taken in for investigation has committed no crime. It would appear at this time, this is an ongoing investigation, but at this time all indications are that this was a hoax."
The target of the hoax was released from custody and will not be facing any charges. Authorities would not comment on who they think may have been behind the threat, but did say that if caught that person will face federal charges.
"They're going to be very serious charges," explained Sullivan. "They're interfering with aviation. And you're causing a plane to return to do another landing - an unnecessary landing. You're requiring armed law enforcement to go onto a plane, which this plane appeared to be full to me. There's always an opportunity for mistakes to happen. So this is no joke. Not to mention the fact that all of these passengers are now late on their arrival to Dallas, Texas. Many of them will have to make connecting flights, which they are going to miss. Most of these people today were traveling on business, they have people waiting for them at their point of arrival. It's just an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do, and the bottom line is it's criminal."
Sources tell Action News that it was a former girlfriend of the man behind the prank call.
The FBI is now leading the investigation.