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Man Held in Threat to Start Chemical Fire on Jetliner

January 11, 1987|Associated Press

CHANTILLY, Va. — A man threatened to start a chemical fire on an airborne jetliner Saturday but was arrested after the plane landed and its 44 passengers disembarked safely, authorities said.

No one was injured in the incident involving New York Air Flight 681 from Newark, N.J., to Washington's Dulles International Airport, about 25 miles west of the nation's capital.

Norwood Emmanuel, about 50 years old, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was ushered off the plane at Dulles by FBI agents without incident shortly before noon, more than four hours after passing a note containing his threat to a flight attendant, said Joseph Krahling, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's northern Virginia office.

The flight took off from Newark with 44 passengers and five crew members and landed at Dulles slightly behind schedule, an airline spokesman said.

Note Given to Attendant

About midway into the flight, Emmanuel gave the flight attendant the note and she slipped it under the door of the crew's cabin, said Stephen Hayes, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"He was basically threatening to burn the plane with chemicals," Krahling said.

He said Emmanuel had a cigarette lighter and "a very small packet" with him on the plane. He declined comment on what was in the packet.

Emmanuel, who asked to talk to black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan during the takeover, was arraigned before a U.S. magistrate in Alexandria, Va., late Saturday afternoon. He was charged with threatening to set fire to an aircraft and was held without bond until a hearing Tuesday, the FBI said.

Krahling said that, after the plane was taken to a "secure area" of the airport, the pilot "sat down next to the hijacker, engaged him in conversation while the . . . crew went about quietly telling the passengers to deplane."

'Told Us to Run'

Marty Bader of Little Ferry, N.J., said that, after she and other passengers left the plane: "The captain told us to walk. He then told us to run. We ran across a couple of hundred yards and then stood there in the rain."

Passenger Rose May of Robbinsville, N.J., said she did not realize the plane had been commandeered until it landed. "I felt the crew handled it very well. Nobody panicked," she said.

Some of the approximately 40 FBI agents who were sent to the airport first began speaking to Emmanuel over a loudspeaker.

They eventually entered the plane from the stairs and gave Emmanuel a cup of coffee and pack of cigarettes, which he had requested. Shortly afterward, they persuaded him to get off the plane and he was arrested, Krahling said.

Krahling said FBI dogs examined the flight's luggage and "got a hit" on a box that was Emmanuel's but did not say what the dogs detected.

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