Weird News

Airport closes after skull discovered in baggage

Deputy Editor James Muir presents some unlikely stories from the world of aviation.

Picture credit: below@adobe.stock

Security operations at Salt Lake City International Airport had to close for two hours on September 18 because of a scare involving the model of a human skull. The skull was discovered in the passenger’s checked baggage and Transportation Security Administration staff needed a further look when they noticed unidentifiable components inside, which could have been an improvised explosive device, reports The Independent.

Salt Lake City Police Airport Division were notified who worked with the TSA’s explosives specialist to mitigate the threat with the help of an explosive detection dog. The passenger was contacted who explained it was a model containing putty, a nine-volt battery and a sensor. It can be used to train spinal and neurosurgeons to conduct lobotomies.

The passenger was going to display the skull at a tradeshow in Cancun, Mexico. TSA officials decided the passenger could not travel with the skull so kept it in Salt Lake City and the passenger collected it when he returned. 

Rat on a plane
Passengers on a flight from Bangkok received a fright when a rat and an otter, which were smuggled in a passenger’s hand luggage, escaped. The unexpected guests were on a VietJet flight from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport to Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, and the rat proved to be rude guest by biting a flight attendant.

Cabin crew made an announcement asking anyone who had brought animals on board to make themselves known and several seats were searched before a passenger is reported to have asked for a refund and said the animals belonged to her. Crew asked for a fluent Chinese speaker to help discuss the situation with the women.

When the flight landed in Taipei, police searched the Airbus A320 and found a box of 28 live turtles, a snake, a marmot, two otters and two other unidentified rodents. A passenger said every passenger had their bags search on arrival.

Reports say security staff in Bangkok had noticed the animals in the luggage but waved the passenger through. Royal Thai Police say one member of staff raised concerns so consulted a colleague who did not open the bag and allowed the passenger to continue their journey. In a statement, the police say the employee has been ordered to stop working immediately and if they are found to have been negligent, they will be punished.

Stinking your neck out
US Customs and Border Protection officers seized a box of giraffe dung from a woman at Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport who said she was going to turn it into a necklace. The woman was returning from Kenya and declared the package after being selected to have her belongings checked not long after arrival. Agricultural specialists at US Customs and Border Protection have reportedly destroyed the giraffe dung because animal faeces from Kenya is linked to health risks including African swine fever, classical swine fever, Newcastle disease, foot-and-mouth disease and swine vesicular disease.

Wheels of (illegal) trade
A man flying into Hong Kong has been arrested after 11kg of suspected cocaine worth over £1.2 million was discovered hidden in the cushions of an electric wheelchair. The 51-year-old had travelled from Sint Maarten via Paris and brought the wheelchair into the country as one of two pieces of checked baggage, according to customs officials.

Staff were suspicious so ordered further examination where they discovered that its seat cushion and backrest had been re-stitched. The man, who has mobility issues, said he was the director of a car rental company and the wheelchair had been loaned by a friend. Customs officials said they would increase checks on visitors from “high-risk regions” to combat transnational drug trafficking. If the man is found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs, he could face life in prison.

Packing heat
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers have intercepted over 5,000 firearms at airport security checkpoints in the first three quarters of 2023, putting it on target to beat the record 6,542 seizures last year. In the third quarter ending 30 September, 1,820 firearms were stopped at checkpoints, averaging 19.8 per day, of which 94% were loaded.

Some airports are setting records for seizures, with Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania catching 36 by 10 October, beating the previous record of 35 in 2019, which was for the whole year. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport has also broken records, with 36 seizures in the year up to 9 October compared to 35 in the whole of last year.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are unloaded and packed in a hard-sided locked case, and they have to be declared. If passengers are found with guns at security checkpoints, they can face fines running into thousands of dollars. 

Wait for me!
A woman has been arrested for running onto the tarmac in an apparent attempt to flag down a departing plane. The incident took place at Canberra airport in Australia shocked bystanders recorded the woman standing on the tarmac by a QantasLink aircraft, seemingly trying to attract the pilot’s attention. She had no luck and headed back towards the terminal building. The Independent reports that Australian Federal Police confirmed that the woman had been charged with entering an airside area or security zone without permission and damaged property, and has been charged with possessing a small quantity of cannabis.

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