Who can forget when a US Airways commuter flight made an emergency landing (January 2010) after a crew panicked at the sight of a 17-year-old laying tefillin?
The young man and his sister were headed for a four-day visit with their grandmother, but instead were greeted in the City of Brotherly Love by bomb-sniffing dogs, police and the FBI, according to a report in the NY Daily News.
The White Plains teen, flying from LaGuardia Airport to Louisville, Kentucky didn’t have the time to recite his morning prayers on the ground before the 7:25 a.m. flight, so he did it on the plane, his grandmother, Frances Winchell, later explained.
The straps apparently were mistaken for wires running from a box, authorities said.
The flight attendant, having never seen tefillin before, notified the pilot of a potential problem when the teen put the “shel rosh” compartment on his head.
“This is something most Americans probably have not seen before,” said FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaber.
Soon the plane, with its 15 passengers and three crew members, was descending ahead of schedule.
“The crew decided to land in Philadelphia, where a more complete investigation and followup with authorities would be possible,” said a statement from Republic Airlines, the flight’s operator.
The plane taxied to a remote section of the airport, where law enforcement officials boarded the flight and whisked the youth, Caleb Leibowitz, and his 16-year-old sister, Dalia, aside for questioning.
“They were very cooperative,” Klaber said. “They were dressed like normal teenagers, except he had a yarmulke on.”
The siblings, along with the other passengers, were placed on later flights to Kentucky.