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Tefillin Misunderstanding Causes Philly Emergency Landing

USAir Flight 3079 made an emergency landing when a young Jewish man's phylacteries, or tefillin, caused a scare. He was detained.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 1/21/2010, 6:25 PM / Last Update: 1/21/2010, 6:17 PM

An airplane headed from LaGuardia Airport to Louisville made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday morning because a 17 year old male on the plane was praying with "tefillin", or phylacteries. According to Fox News, the man was questioned by airline personnel, who “didn't get answers that satisfied them” and diverted the plane to Philadelphia.

The "tefillin" are two small boxes containing small prayer scrolls which are placed on the arm and forehead during prayer. They have black leather straps which are wrapped around the arm and which dangle past the shoulders. A passenger who was not familiar with the Jewish prayer custom became suspicious and alerted the flight crew. 

The crew quickly took emergency procedures and diverted the flight to Philadelphia airport due to the proximity of the city. Homeland Security and Philadelphia Police were alerted and were on the scene along with fire crews and a bomb squad. The 17 year old was taken off the plane and reportedly fully cooperated with authorities. The airplane was taken to a remote part of the tarmac at Philadelphia International, and other flights were not being affected by the incident.

“One person was taken away from the plane in custody and the rest of the passengers were released,” the Fox report said. USAirways spokesman Jim Olson said the passengers are being rebooked on other flights.

USAir Flight 3079 was a small commuter plane that holds 50 passengers.