Skip to main content /US /US

Pilot feared shoe bomb suspect had accomplices

Pilot: 'I'm coming in with something'

Richard Reid
Richard Reid  

From Wolf Blitzer
CNN Washington Bureau

(CNN) -- The flight crew of American Airlines Flight 63 feared accused shoe bomber Richard Reid was traveling with three accomplices when he allegedly tried to blow up the airplane.

The crew members also spent the last part of the flight afraid the explosives-packed footwear could destroy the plane before it was able to land.

The information comes from three pilots and two flight attendants talking on a training tape distributed by the Allied Pilot's Association, the collective bargaining agent for American Airlines pilots. They do not give their names.

"I heard a scream from the No. 3 flight attendant," said one.

Flight 63 was about 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean on December 22, en route from Paris to Miami, Florida, when witnesses say Reid began acting strangely.

Reid was assigned to an aisle seat near the middle of the aircraft, but he moved to an empty window seat after takeoff.

The new seat was closer to the plane's exterior where the bomb could have caused greater damage.

"He tried to light something on fire. We really didn't know what it was," said one person on the tape.

"The flight attendant had told him to put it out. And he put it in his mouth," another said.

The crew of American Airlines Flight 63 describes how alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid was stopped. WFAA reports (June 6)

Play video
Read the charges: U.S. v. Reid  (FindLaw, PDF format)

Latest Legal News

Law Library

FindLaw Consumer Center

Reid was over powered by passengers and crew members, but not without a struggle.

"The No. 3 flight attendant ran by me, saying, 'He bit me! He bit me!'" someone on the APA tape said.

After Reid was subdued, the flight crew became worried that he wasn't acting alone.

The pilot ran a trace on the seat where the crew thought Reid was sitting. The trace indicated he was traveling as part of a family of four.

"The scenario now is that there are three other people traveling with this man," a crew member recalled.

But despite pleas from the flight attendants, the pilots could not find a place to land immediately.

"Unfortunately, we're two hours away from anything close by us ... over two hours," said the pilot.

American Airlines headquarters later determined that Reid was traveling alone.

While Reid was sedated by a doctor on board the plane, the plane was diverted to Boston, Massachusetts and was escorted by two F-15s.

But the crew still feared the explosives inside Reid's shoes.

"I took them up to the front ... and one of the dumbest things I ever did was to call the cockpit and say, 'I'm coming in with something,'" remembered the pilot.

Federal agents said the sneakers Reid was wearing contained the explosive TATP or triacetone triperoxide.
Federal agents said the sneakers Reid was wearing contained the explosive TATP or triacetone triperoxide.  

"On the way in, I realized that I smelled the cord, and I see the burnt end. And I say, 'Oh my gosh, this is what he was trying to light. This is not a shoe. It's a bomb.'"

The device was then taken to the back of the plane and wrapped in blankets and pillows to help absorb a potential explosion.

"We made sure no one came near it," said a flight attendant. "Of course, every time the airplane made a little jolt, it was a little disturbing to say the least."

Reid, a British citizen, is now in federal custody in Boston, facing a nine-count indictment.

The indictment alleges he received his training from al Qaeda.

Prosecutors have cited e-mails Reid allegedly sent in which he described his mission on the plane, "which was to engage in a war on terrorism without regard to his own life and to cause death to Americans."




Back to the top