Only in Canada, eh? Indeed. Other countries probably would think three times before sending a fully armed tactical team aboard a passenger aircraft returned to the ground because of a possible bomb threat.
It happened last Friday when a Sunwing vacation jet left Toronto for Panama. It turned around over West Virginia after a young man, reportedly upset by the price of cigarettes, made ‘direct threats’ to the aircraft. It was escorted back to Toronto by two F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. National Guard.
Once on the ground, a tactical unit aiming assault rifles stormed into the aircraft’s aisles. They grabbed the young man and yanked him off without incident, which was fortunate for the 161 people on board.
The police action appeared to be a gross overreaction that seriously frightened passengers and could have injured them.
I’m not alone with that opinion. John Nance, former airline pilot and ABC News consultant, said that had the man had his finger on a bomb trigger, he would have blown the plane up when the police stormed it.
“I’m not sure this was the correct reaction,” he said on Saturday’s ABC World News.
The incident left many questions needing answers. Whose SWAT team stormed the plane? One news report said RCMP took charge once the plane landed. Peel Regional Police took the man under arrest. Who made the decision to send combat police aboard? What are the protocols and procedures in place for such incidents? Was there an air marshal aboard?
There have been enough bad police actions in this country (i.e. OPP killing of Dudley George, RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski) to raise concern about the leadership decisions of our police services.
The Sunwing incident must be investigated and the answers to the questions it raises must be made public.