A runway at Bob Hope Airport was shut down for more than two hours
Sunday and an aircraft evacuated after airport officials received
word of a bomb threat on a Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Flight 117 heading toward Phoenix departed from Burbank
at 4:40 p.m. only to be brought back an hour later, said Victor Gill,
director of public affairs and communications for the Bob Hope
Southwest Airlines received an anonymous call shortly after the
flight’s departure that there was a bomb on the plane, Gill said, and
relayed the message to officials at the Burbank Airport. Southwest
decided the plane would return to Burbank, where it landed around
5:30 p.m. and was directed to a location away from buildings and
other aircrafts for inspection, Gill said.
“Southwest Airlines places safety as a No. 1 priority,” Southwest
spokeswoman Ginger Hardage said. “That influenced the decision to
return the aircraft to Burbank.”
About 120 passengers were evacuated from the plane via the
emergency slides and bused back to the airport terminal, where they
were directed to stay until inspections of the plane were completed.
The aircraft was inspected by an Los Angeles International Airport
K9 unit, said Burbank Airport Police Chief Steve Staveley.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad and the FBI
were also present.
Nothing suspicious was uncovered, Staveley said.
One the airport’s two runways was shut down, but the airport was
never closed, Gill said.
“There were some initial very short-term air traffic delays ...
not substantial in my view,” Gill said. “If there were delays, they
were of a very short-term duration.”
Clearing the plane to depart again took about two hours, at which
point Southwest brought out a second aircraft to fly passengers to
the intended destination.
“Some [of the passengers] elected not to go, but most of them did
go [on to Phoenix],” Gill said. “We are glad that there was no truth
to the threat that was turned in. We feel very fortunate we were able
to keep the airport in operation during this event.”
Airport police are currently working with Burbank Police
Department and the FBI in trying to locate the caller who initially
made the threat to Southwest, Staveley said.
If found, the individual could face federal and state charges.
“It is very disheartening that someone would chose to pull a hoax
like this that inconvenienced a lot of people,” Hardage said. “We try
to work with authorities on issues like these all the way to
prosecution, if we’re able to.”
The incident was one of several bomb threats in Los Angeles
Sunday. Reports of suspicious packages were called into several areas
throughout Los Angeles, including an abandoned backpack at Union
Station and a package at the Metro Red Line headquarters on Figueroa
But this kind of activity is considered normal for an area the
size of Los Angeles County, Staveley said.
“It’s just a normal flow of things,” said Staveley. “That’s the
way things are routinely. And I’m sure with press coverage we are
going to have copycats.”
Bob Hope Airport is listed as a possible terror target on a list
compiled by the Glendale Police Department.
“Periodically, from time to time, you receive those types of
threats at large public venues,” Glendale Police Assistant Chief Ron
DePompa said. “We have not seen an increase in those incidents in the
last couple of years as a result of the increased awareness in ...
terrorism. However, we want to be hyper-vigilant on those potential
targets that have been identified in the surrounding area.”
Glendale Police was informed of Sunday’s incident, but was asked
not to respond after the threat was determined a hoax, DePompa said.
“Since the 9/11 event we have joined with the fire department in
taking every proactive step in relation to planning and training in
potential target awareness,” he said.