Fighter Jets Escort Singapore A350 Over Bomb Hoax

Fighter Jets Escort Singapore A350 Over Bomb Hoax

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In late September, passengers on one of the world’s longest flights were in for a bit more excitement than usual. There’s now an update, as the person behind this situation has spent several weeks in jail, but has ultimately been released, after an assessment of his mental health.

Singapore Airlines A350 gets fighter jet escort

This incident involves Singapore Airlines flight SQ33 from San Francisco (SFO) to Singapore (SIN). Specifically, this is the flight that departed late evening on Monday, September 26, 2022, arriving in Singapore on the morning of Wednesday, September 28, 2022. At nearly 8,500 miles, this is one of the world’s longest flights.

So, what happened? According to reports, roughly three hours before landing, a 37-year-old male American passenger had allegedly claimed that there was a bomb in his carry-on bag, and he then proceeded to assault the crew. At this point the passenger was restrained in his seat.

Authorities on the ground were made aware of this situation, so two fighter jets were dispatched to “escort” the plane to the airport. I always find the concept of dispatching fighter jets in situations like this to be a bit odd.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only thing they can really do is shoot down the plane, and I’m not sure there’s any situation in which that would be the best possible outcome? I suppose it’s largely about “threatening” the suspect, but I’m also not sure what that accomplishes in this context.

Flight tracking shows that the plane entered some holding patterns on approach, so it’s not clear if that was to buy time before the plane could land, or if it was due to actual traffic at the airport (I suspect the former, since presumably this flight had “priority” otherwise, given the fighter jet escorts).

Singapore Airlines A350’s approach to Changi Airport

The plane landed without incident at 5:50AM, but that wasn’t the end of the saga.

Passengers stay on plane for 3.5 more hours

Upon landing in Singapore, the plane taxied to a remote part of the field, and at that point the army was “mobilized immediately.” Teams from the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Explosives Defense Group carried out an inspection of the plane.

This meant that passengers had to stay on the plane until 9:20AM before they were cleared to go, meaning they had to sit on the plane for a further 3.5 hours. The threat was determined to be false.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the passenger was arrested for making false threats of terrorist acts and on suspicion of consuming controlled drugs. Those certainly aren’t charges I’d want thrown my way, especially in Singapore!

Passengers had a very long morning at Changi Airport

Man jailed for four weeks, released on mental health grounds

There’s now an update regarding this story. The man behind this incident had spent the past four weeks in jail for assaulting a crew member.

Authorities ended up dropping charges against him for the bomb threat, after an expert assessment of his mental health. The man had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and claims he recalled hearing voices in his head telling him there was a bomb on the plane, and to shout that out to alert others. The man had consumed a chocolate bar with marijuana prior to the flight, though it’s not known to what extent that impacted his behavior.

As the judge explained during a sentencing hearing:

“His delusionary beliefs, auditory hallucinations, as well as psychotic thought disorder have greatly contributed to his offending behaviour.”

The man was released from jail this past Friday, and was deported back to the United States.

Bottom line

In late September, passengers on one of Singapore Airlines’ longest flights had more excitement than they bargained for. Roughly three hours before landing, a passenger assaulted a crew member and claimed he had a bomb in his carry-on. This caused two fighter jets to be dispatched, which escorted the plane to Changi Airport. Upon landing, the plane was searched for 3.5 hours, and passengers had to stay onboard.

This man ended up spending four weeks in jail for assaulting a flight attendant, though charges were ultimately dropped for the bomb hoax, after an assessment of his mental condition.

What do you make of this Singapore Airlines incident?

Conversations (27)
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  1. Marco P. Guest

    The story omits one element of his punishment. When deported from Singapore, he was flown back to the US on United.

  2. Sam G Guest

    Fighter jets can actually see into the cockpit to determine who is flying the plane and the condition of the pilots.

  3. Jared Guest

    Fighter jets are there for one reason only. In the event of a cockpit intrusion to force the aircraft towards a densely populated or high value target, away from its flight plan, the fighters are there to ensure that the aircraft never reaches the intended destination.

    Comes down to a comparison of casualties.

  4. derek Guest

    This shows that a lot of Americans who are jealous of Singapore, hate Singapore, falsely claim Singapore is a dictatorship, bad mouth Singapore, and think that Spirit and American are superior to Singapore Airlines are wrong.

    In the US, the case would not be resolved in 4 weeks. Singapore did not cane the man. They did not sentence him to years in prison.

    In some ways, Singapore is superior to the U.S. Not in every way but in many ways.

    1. Rotuma Diamond

      What a bizarre comment. Using that same absence of logic, Lithuania is superior to Poland, and Poles are jealous of Lithuania and hate Lithuanians.

    2. Jan Guest

      These Americans you mention are the fictional voices in your head, right?

  5. S Ro Guest

    I’m from Singapore and the country is densely populated. If there was a real bomb he could cause real damage and kill thousands of people just by one plane blowing up over our densely populated land.

    It’s unfortunate that he is suffering from mental illness that led him to behave that way. But that is no justification for him to behave in such a manner.

    By our standards, he got off pretty lightly with...

    I’m from Singapore and the country is densely populated. If there was a real bomb he could cause real damage and kill thousands of people just by one plane blowing up over our densely populated land.

    It’s unfortunate that he is suffering from mental illness that led him to behave that way. But that is no justification for him to behave in such a manner.

    By our standards, he got off pretty lightly with four weeks in remand. As a country we take the defence and security of our people very seriously

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Let's keep in mind that jailing for an extended period of time or otherwise punishing a foreigner for an extended period of time will create significant international relations issues. There is a difference from willingfully or even accidently violating laws and not having the capacity for one reason or another to not know what one is doing.
      The country has the option to kick someone out of the country, ban them from every coming...

      Let's keep in mind that jailing for an extended period of time or otherwise punishing a foreigner for an extended period of time will create significant international relations issues. There is a difference from willingfully or even accidently violating laws and not having the capacity for one reason or another to not know what one is doing.
      The country has the option to kick someone out of the country, ban them from every coming in again, and SQ undoubtedly banned them from every flying on them anywhere in the world.
      Singapore does do many things well but I'm not sure that other countries wouldn't do the same thing.

  6. Jan Guest

    This guy will likely be convicted under Singapore’s laws. Good stuff - this guy is probably as good as dead, literally.

    1. Big AL Guest

      Maybe you cant read Jan....

    2. ryan Guest

      The post was updated, if you look at the comment date you replied to it was several weeks ago. His release was today.

    3. glenn t Diamond

      phew.... just in time to get home and vote Republican with all his other lunatic fellow travellers who hear things in their heads regularly! lol

  7. 9volt Member

    The "fake bomb" scenario is exactly how the 9/11 hijackers were able to fly into the WTC, Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA. The illusion of a bomb essentially allowed the hijackers full control of the plane, as passengers/crew were too fearful of overpowering them. So, while shooting down a plane would obviously be extremely tragic, the goal would be to minimize further loss of life if the plane deviated from its flight path, and was headed...

    The "fake bomb" scenario is exactly how the 9/11 hijackers were able to fly into the WTC, Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA. The illusion of a bomb essentially allowed the hijackers full control of the plane, as passengers/crew were too fearful of overpowering them. So, while shooting down a plane would obviously be extremely tragic, the goal would be to minimize further loss of life if the plane deviated from its flight path, and was headed for a large populated building, for instance.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      And we learn from UA93 that if terrorists are bringing down the plane, fighting back is your only chance of survival.

      If the cockpit is not compromised, nothing would lead to shooting down a commercial airliner.
      Yes the idea is down it before it's over a populated area. But the scenario that leads to that is extremely slim.
      9/11 made sure we reinforced the cockpit. Too good that we get the 4U 9525...

      And we learn from UA93 that if terrorists are bringing down the plane, fighting back is your only chance of survival.

      If the cockpit is not compromised, nothing would lead to shooting down a commercial airliner.
      Yes the idea is down it before it's over a populated area. But the scenario that leads to that is extremely slim.
      9/11 made sure we reinforced the cockpit. Too good that we get the 4U 9525 crash. It took less than 10 mins from cruising altitude.
      If the same happened over NYC on departure or approach, there is nothing anyone could do to stop it.

      People tend to forget that not only did the good guys learn from 9/11, the bad guys also learn it too.

    2. John Guest

      Eskimo is now a third-rate, wannabe security 'pundit'. Good grief! You STILL trying for a gig on CNN???

    3. Eskimo Guest

      Thank you my stalking fanclub for following me wherever the channel I appear on.

      Unfortunately I got fired from CNN for berating my stalker with facts.
      I got fired from FOX for not inciting a riot to publicly berate my stalker.

      And on CNN we use 'expert' not 'pundit'. On FOX we use 'pundit'.
      So my stalking fan, be a little less conservative and go see a psychiatrist.

    4. Nelson Member

      @ 9volt, fully agree with you about the fighter jets. The only purpose of them is in fact if no positive response to shoot the plane down before they hit something else to have more deaths. My guess is that that was the reason why the plane circuled above water. Of course, any dead is one to much but "better" 200 victims then 2000 i.e.

  8. DCAWABN Guest

    Can we please stop with the "I hope (s)he gets the help they need" rhetoric for fools that pull stunts like this. Drugs or mental illness isn't some sort of "get out of jail free" card given we've been in a post-9/11 era for over 21 years. People know better by now, and if they don't too freakin' bad. Throw them in jail for life or cane them - whatever the law of the land...

    Can we please stop with the "I hope (s)he gets the help they need" rhetoric for fools that pull stunts like this. Drugs or mental illness isn't some sort of "get out of jail free" card given we've been in a post-9/11 era for over 21 years. People know better by now, and if they don't too freakin' bad. Throw them in jail for life or cane them - whatever the law of the land is, given they'll likely be tried in Singapore - but ignorance of the law for being under the influence or not belonging on a plane in the first place is not an excuse nor should it be tolerated.

    1. Ben L. Diamond

      Do you think that when people say, "I hope he gets the help he needs," they actually mean "he shouldn't suffer any consequences?" If so, I encourage you to work on your reading comprehension!

    2. XPL Diamond

      I live in a country where being under the influence is indeed a pass for all kinds of terrible behavior. One result is that such people don't get any help because (no surprise) there aren't any consequences. I'm sure no one intends for that to be the result, but it's neither misanthropic nor a case of poor reading comprehension to be concerned about unintended consequences.

    3. Dr Laura Guest

      What is the point of “caning” people who hear voices telling them to warn others of a threat? Does your tiny, under-developed rump of a brain really think that subjecting them to violence will change their perceptions, influence the actions of others who suffer from the same mental problem, or in any way “keep people safe”? Getting these people the professional help they need is going to change their behaviour far more than arbitrary violence...

      What is the point of “caning” people who hear voices telling them to warn others of a threat? Does your tiny, under-developed rump of a brain really think that subjecting them to violence will change their perceptions, influence the actions of others who suffer from the same mental problem, or in any way “keep people safe”? Getting these people the professional help they need is going to change their behaviour far more than arbitrary violence from amateur psychologists like you

    4. glenn t Diamond

      Singapore has long been keen on caning offenders for various transgressions. Make of that what you will, but it's the law of the land so if you find it unacceptable don't do crazy things in their jurisdiction.
      There are plenty of punishments in various US states way more outrageous than a touch of caning.

  9. Creditcrunch Diamond

    The fighters are an insurance policy, all the crew know is that 1 individual has identified themselves, there could be “sleepers” who could be just waiting for the aircraft to be over a populated area before they jump into action and try and gain access to the cockpit or other sensitive areas, if that happens then the destination chain of command need to make a decision, shoot it down before it lands even if over populated areas or continue to let it land.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      You watch way too much Hollywood fantasy.
      The 1 individual would bring down the plane over a populated area without warnings, no sleeper needed.
      If maximum casualty isn't the objective. The 1 individual would have the plane as hostage to make whatever demands. Either the plane lands, or threat subdue. Again no sleeper needed.

      As long as the cockpit isn't compromised, it will get diverted over unpopulated area and land in a remote...

      You watch way too much Hollywood fantasy.
      The 1 individual would bring down the plane over a populated area without warnings, no sleeper needed.
      If maximum casualty isn't the objective. The 1 individual would have the plane as hostage to make whatever demands. Either the plane lands, or threat subdue. Again no sleeper needed.

      As long as the cockpit isn't compromised, it will get diverted over unpopulated area and land in a remote location, they will never shoot down an airliner. Changi Airbase is right next to water so that solves any issue.

      If terrorist are smart enough to be an actual threat, they are likely smart enough to plan ahead.

  10. Donna Diamond

    I understand the fighter escort to ensure that the plane lands were designated, God forbid a worse scenario as you described. What I can’t understand is keeping the passengers onboard while the authorities on the ground carried out their search for a bomb. In any event, that jerk deserves a BFL across all carriers and a nice long jail sentence.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      I guess it's easier to search the plane and risk it blow up than detaining everyone and risk civil rights problems on international level, SG isn't civil rights friendly to begin with.

      What's more surprising is why they scrambled F-16 not F-15 as the latter seems to fit in better for the interceptor on alert given their neighbors are flying Su-30 which would have more advantage over the aging F-16s.

  11. Sam Guest

    I believe the fighter jets thing is in case the "terrorist" were to try to take over the flight controls and then go on a kamikaze mission a la 9/11. In that situation it would be necessary to shoot down the plane.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben L. Diamond

Do you think that when people say, "I hope he gets the help he needs," they actually mean "he shouldn't suffer any consequences?" If so, I encourage you to work on your reading comprehension!

5
DCAWABN Guest

Can we please stop with the "I hope (s)he gets the help they need" rhetoric for fools that pull stunts like this. Drugs or mental illness isn't some sort of "get out of jail free" card given we've been in a post-9/11 era for over 21 years. People know better by now, and if they don't too freakin' bad. Throw them in jail for life or cane them - whatever the law of the land is, given they'll likely be tried in Singapore - but ignorance of the law for being under the influence or not belonging on a plane in the first place is not an excuse nor should it be tolerated.

3
Creditcrunch Diamond

The fighters are an insurance policy, all the crew know is that 1 individual has identified themselves, there could be “sleepers” who could be just waiting for the aircraft to be over a populated area before they jump into action and try and gain access to the cockpit or other sensitive areas, if that happens then the destination chain of command need to make a decision, shoot it down before it lands even if over populated areas or continue to let it land.

3
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