December 6, 2009, - 3:32 pm

Why is AirTran Lying About & Attacking Its Customers?: The Answers, Documents AirTran Won’t Provide

By Debbie Schlussel

Why is AirTran lying about its passengers?  And why would you believe the company that refuses to answer important questions or release documents to back up their claims?  The airline may face a lawsuit, which will finally uncover the proof that a dry run was conducted by 11 Muslim men, and it tried to force passengers to fly with them, anyway.


As readers know, on Thursday, I posted an e-mail written by Tedd J. Petruna, a NASA employee who was on AirTran Flight 297 from Atlanta to Houston on November 17th of this year.

He recounted in the e-mail–which he never intended to go public all around the internet–how 11 Middle Eastern men, likely Muslims, conducted what appeared to be a dry run.  He wrote the e-mail to dispute the lie AirTran told the press that the flight was canceled because a man refused to stop talking on his cell phone.  AirTran, by the way, has never released the name of that man.  (Gee, could it be because his name is Mohammed or Ahmed, and he isn’t  “a Spanish gentleman” as the airline claims?  Hey, Spanish, Muslim–“they all look alike,” right AirTran?)

Since then, I noted that Chaplain Dr. Keith A. Robinson has come forth to describe his experience as a passenger on that same flight, writing about it and giving an exclusive interview to nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Steve Gill.

And now, the long knives of AirTran public relations have come out.  AirTran told the Atlanta Urinal-Constipation, er . . . Journal-Constitution that Petruna was not on the flight (well, at least in this case, there’s no constipation, as the paper is full of crap).  And instantly, everyone believes AirTran, without seeing the official passenger manifest or any documentation whatsoever.  Everyone, except me and most of my readers (not the trolls who are now commenting).

Tedd Petruna tells me he was indeed on the flight and, afterward, wrote a long report for the airline about what happened on the flight.  He says he’s shocked that AirTran is saying the TSA officials were never there, that the airline has the guts to flat out deny what happened on that flight and in the aftermath.  There are plenty of records of his being on the flight and what happened, and he’s considering suing AirTran for lying about it and defaming him.  Petruna predicted he’d be attacked for telling the truth about what happened on Flight 297, and he was right.  But he told me that he never thought AirTran would lie and claim he wasn’t on the flight.

In my view, it’s not up to Tedd Petruna to prove  he was on the flight.  It’s AirTran’s move to prove he wasn’t.  Merely saying so (and lying) isn’t enough.

Since the AJC’s report of AirTran’s lie, er . . . “claim” that Petruna wasn’t on Flight 297 on November 17th, I’ve come under attack by mostly far-left blogs, like Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, Joshua Micah Marshall and his Talking Points Memo, and the like, and many of their blind follower trolls have posted attack comments on this site.  I find that extremely interesting, since this bunch is almost always anti-corporate America.  They never believe a single thing an American corporation says and always see the worst in them, including cover-ups (like this one).  But suddenly, when it will help lull us back into the pretense that Muslims are not a threat in America and aren’t constantly planning attacks on planes and elsewhere and testing the system, these far-lefties have put blind faith into the claims of AirTran, a corporation.

But I don’t put blind faith into it.  Sooner or later, crew members who left Flight 297 and refused to fly–and who had to be replaced–will come out and tell the truth about what happened on that flight.  Sooner or later, AirTran and the TSA will have to release documents detailing what happened on that flight, documents that will include Tedd Petruna’s report they asked him to write for them, and the agreement they forced him to sign agreeing not to speak about what happened to the media, while they “investigated” . . . and apparently while they engaged in character assassination of their customers.

But the fact is, you don’t cancel a flight, and a crew doesn’t refuse to fly a plane because a man refused to stop talking on his cell phone and was escorted off the plane.  That’s clearly not what happened on Flight 297.  Yet, that was the lie AirTran told the press.  And AirTran is consistent.  The airline is still lying.  And it’s story is constantly changing.  First, it was one man who wouldn’t get off his cellphone.  Now, it’s a whole group of “Spanish-speaking men.”  Uh-huh.  Sure.

Here are the questions and documents on which AirTran has yet to be forthcoming:

1)  A full passenger manifest for Flight 297 from November 17th:  I’d bet it will not only show that Tedd Petruna was on the flight, but also that at least 11 men with Middle-Eastern and/or Muslim names were on it, too.  I doubt there will be 11 “Spanish” names on the manifest.  If AirTran has privacy concerns about passenger’s names, the Airline certainly didn’t have any privacy concerns about releasing (and faking) Tedd Petruna’s itinerary without his premission.  Sorry, I don’t believe AirTran, and I’m not going to take it’s word that Petruna wasn’t on the flight.  I need to see the official manifest, with proof that it wasn’t doctored.

2)  The name of the passenger AirTran claims was the reason the flight was cancelled–the man who refused to stop talking on his cellphone.

3)  The names and contact information of all crew members of AirTran Flight 297 from November 17th, including the first crew that got off the plane and refused to fly.

4)  Why did AirTran cancel Flight 297 on November 17th, if it was just a problem of a man not talking on his cell phone?  Once he was escorted off the flight, why didn’t they fly?  AirTran officials were willing to suffer the cost of a canceled flight because a passenger wouldn’t get off his cell phone?  If you believe that, I have some land on the runway at Atlanta Hartsfield to sell you.

5)  Why did an entire flight crew, including the captain and co-pilot, get off the flight and refuse to fly, if it was merely a problem of a single passenger refusing to stop talking on his cellphone?  Why was the entire crew replaced?

Why would AirTran lie and resort to attacking its own passengers, its own customer base?  It’s all about money.  No-one wants to fly on an airline that tries to force its passengers to fly with terrorists, even after the crew has evacuated the plane and refuses to fly it.  No-one wants to fly on an airline that cares that little about the safety of its passengers.

And, now, no-one should want to fly on an airline that will go so far to cover it up–so far to pretend that a dry run or testing the system of some sort was not conducted on its flight by 11 Muslim passengers–that it will now attack its passengers and engage in the character assassination of its customers.

I certainly won’t.


By the way, Tedd Petruna admits that he is unsure of some details in his e-mail–and e-mail he never intended to be distributed throughout the internet, like that the men were Muslim as opposed to “Arabic.”  But how many men speaking Arabic, conducting a dry run of a hijacking are Christian Arabs?  In the old days, yes, there were Christian Arab terrorists, like George Habash of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and others.  But today, they are either Muslims or working for them.  It was a fair assumption on Petruna’s part, and likely an accurate observation.

But we’ll never know for sure, until AirTran voluntarily releases the passenger manifest . . . or it comes out as part of discovery in a lawsuit, the latter of which is more likely to happen.

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268 Responses

BIlly, a well reasoned reply. I agree with the state of our political debate–hurling insults then running back to the safety of “our side.” You can be entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. And the facts of this case simply do not pass the smell test.

There was a disturbance on the plane. It was addressed. The flight took off two hours later than scheduled. Happens a lot, actually.

Let us both hope for an increase in civil discourse.

PS I’m currently reading “Where Men Win Glory.” I highly recommend it.

Henry on December 7, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I began thinking the same thing about the facts. I’m gradually changing my opinion. In any event, it will be interestinf to see how this plays out. unfortuneatly, whicheber way it does will surely lead to another round of “I told you so”.

    P.S. thanks for the book tip

    Billy on December 7, 2009 at 3:39 am

The comment board says 87 comments, and only 2 are showing up.


echo on December 7, 2009 at 3:42 am


    No, you have to click on “newer entries”

    Billy on December 7, 2009 at 3:53 am

First of all, a boarding pass itself, is not proof he was on the flight. He could have printed it beforehand and then when his connection missed, they just gave him another boarding pass for a different flight.

In any case, let us see this boarding pass.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 3:52 am

Thw flight was not cancelled — it went to Houston!

Gene Callahan on December 7, 2009 at 3:54 am

I’ve seen ppl hand cuffed and dragged by the hair out of a plane for smoking. These ppl deserve the same treatment if true.

Brian on December 7, 2009 at 4:24 am

Good job on this story Debbie. I’m not flying on AirTran. I’d rather rent a horse than fly with a liar.

Fighter on December 7, 2009 at 6:30 am

    Fighter, you’re probably safe enough. IO doubt they’ll let Petruna back on their airline.

    Rob on December 7, 2009 at 8:05 am

In this day of “Reality TV” your going to tell me that nor one single passenger on this flight took out their cell phone and took video or at least pictures of this fight/escort off plane? B.S.!!! Why have no other passengers come out and said anything? I could understand the crew fearing for their jobs if they said anything but the other passengers? No one called home saying there was some weird crap on this flight and it’s delayed/cancled?
I am all for a post 9/11 mentality and as posted before I have walked off flights and been threatened for it but something this big with this many witnesses SOMEONE would come forward to agree with the emailed story. My 2-cents

Martin Fee on December 7, 2009 at 6:48 am

Have you seen this news article? The reporter interviewed (what a novel idea!) a newly identified passenger, the head of a security firm (!) in Atlanta, who CONFIRMS that there was a “situation” on board.

(snip) On Friday, AirTran spokesman Christopher White, formerly with the TSA, was snide and rude when I called to inquire about the incident. He refused to answer questions and referred me to the above-mentioned website, which is not an official statement from AirTran but a public rebuking of a customer’s circulating e-mail. Note to Chris: putting a customer’s writing on your site making him a target for death threats and ridicule seems rather irresponsible for a major airline. I hope someone reviews your qualifications as spokesperson.

Then, Saturday, AirTran went further, posting the assertion that the disputed e-mail writer from Texas, according to “legally binding” flight manifests, wasn’t on the plane (just in case any of us believe the “urban legend” he supposedly made up out of thin air to get attention he isn’t seeking,,, or something).

The e-mail writer told me today AirTran is lying and he has his boarding pass, but I’m beyond this by now, because I discovered another highly credible eyewitness to the incident was none other than Cobb businessman and security expert Brent C. Brown, CEO of Chesley-Brown International.

Brown, who is also chairman of the Marietta History Museum, confirmed late Saturday that he was on Flight 297 and that there was chaos on the plane. He believes the entire incident was mishandled by AirTran officials, though has kind words for the pilot, who he said, “was dead right” in his decision-making, and is to be commended for turning the plane around.

Seated in the third row in business class, he said it was obvious the suspicious men were interacting with each other and refusing to sit down, grounds for the pilot’s decision.

Once back at the gate, however, Brown says there were no law enforcement officials visible (this contradicts the Texan’s e-mail) and airline officials weren’t talking to the passengers, who were openly upset and refusing to fly.

“The tension on board was incredible,” Brown said. The men who came back on board after questioning were belligerent and smirking, and the people who got off, he confirmed, were traumatized.

So the story evolves. And in this age of jihadi Army officers and internet hoaxes, us regular folk continue to seek the truth. (end snip)

Just because some of the details aren’t right does not mean that the entire story is necessarily false. And this is NOT a conservative/liberal confrontation; the implications obviously affect us all – and any loved ones who might be on a flight in which a group of passengers willfully disobey direct orders and disrupt the flight. Who knows if it’s a dry run or just fishing for a lawsuit; it accomplishes the same mayhem and – yes – TERROR for the passengers.

Again, look at the above news account; this latest witness corroborates the chaplain’s report.

sunshine101 on December 7, 2009 at 7:00 am

Debbie, I don’t know what we’d do without you. You’re a stellar example of a fiercely patriotic American, a gutsy woman and an all-around good egg. G-dspeed to you and your work. I wish you could be our POTUS.

DS_ROCKS! on December 7, 2009 at 7:27 am

“But the fact is, you don’t cancel a flight, and a crew doesn’t refuse to fly a plane because a man refused to stop talking on his cell phone and was escorted off the plane. That’s clearly not what happened on Flight 297. Yet, that was the lie AirTran told the press.”

Except that AirTran consistently point out that the flight was NOT cancelled and continued on to its destination, with the original troublemaklers on board.

Rob on December 7, 2009 at 8:00 am

I am not a devotee of Snopes, which has shown its biases in the past, but it might be worthwhile to know that they have a link to this story:

P: Snopes needs to be de-Snoped. They deliberately lie, get things completely wrong, etc. Why the heck would you let a left-wing couple of former folk dancers decide for you what is truth? Visiting Snopes is as worthwhile as counting the number of dead insects on the sidewalk: a complete waste of time for someone with nothing to do, who wishes to gain nothing and kill time. DS

Phil on December 7, 2009 at 8:09 am

    DS is correct. Snopes has a left-wing agenda.

    lexi on December 7, 2009 at 9:26 am


Why don’t you sue them? I wish I’d been on that plane because I would have hired you in a heartbeat. There are lots of good conservative public interest litigation groups out there. Why don’t you start one for this kind of thing?

David on December 7, 2009 at 8:31 am

First of all, if you read Laura Armstrong’s COLUMN(to call her a REPORTER is premature) of that small time paper, she doesn’t seem to be bothered that even that guy she contacted doesn’t confirm a single specific detail of that Petruna’s account. The porn(which Petruna himself had to admit was false), Petruna backed by a BIG Texan initimidating one of these muslims, the “attire”. All he says was it wsa mishandled and disturbing. Laura doesn’t even bother trying to contact the lady interviewed by AJC who produced a boarding pass showing that she sat behind the guy.

My take? Airtran certainly mishandled it. Those foreign passengers behaved like idiots and should have been thrown out for not listening to the flight attendant. even by the lady interviewed by the AJC, it was clear that the guy’s friends did not even feel obligated to help mediate the mess that caused so many passengers an immense amount of inconvenience.

Quite simple, no one comes out of this looking good. But Petruna and Keith Robinson are the ones coming out looking like first class liars.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Ralph, it sounded to me like the gentleman interviewed by Laura Armstrong at the Marietta Daily Journal was trying to be calm and PC in the midst of a very polarizing discussion. He did not dispute the basic story, he merely downplayed some of the detail.

    So who do I believe? Since Air Tran has a financial interest in supporting their account of what happened, I am inclined to believe the passenger accounts, and willing to overlook a bit of hyperbole and poetic license in the retelling. Also, the AJC has a financial interest in supporting Air Tran’s side of the story. It would not be the first time that this ridiculous excuse for a newspaper has chosen NOT to investigate both sides of the story in favor of supporting a baised viewpoint.

    And since I live in Atlanta, I have a great deal of experience with both Air Tran AND the AJC. This makes me very inclined to discount Air Tran’s description of the events, and to question the AJC’s motives as well.

    DG in GA on December 7, 2009 at 12:50 pm

and when the next terror attack happens, these same dipshits on the left will cry like babies and point fingers and say : why didn’t we connect the dots”

these are the dots.

BC on December 7, 2009 at 10:25 am

BC…don’t storm in here calling anyone names. So far, we’ve had a very civil discourse with all sides showing mutual respect.

No on to your “dots.” Because it seems you want to go there. I don’t want to dismatle Bush’s first 7 months in office as a failure, but I can. [He NEVER took a meeting from Clarke who was begging for one. And also stayed on vacation with a PDB titled “Bin Laden Determined To Attack”] But hey, these are the facts.

As for these dots? Are you kidding me? A single-sourced forgery chain email? Have you sent any cash to Nigeria lately? Because I have a General who urgently needs your assistance with a large sum of money. Guaranteed–I read it on teh Internet!

Henry on December 7, 2009 at 10:51 am

Gee, I wonder why my links were scrubbed. Must be because Deb is a lying coward.

Mike S on December 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Petruna (or other witnesses)could settle this by taking a lie detector test.

Two informants to the National Enquirer regarding the Tiger Woods situation were paid $25,000 each, but also submitted to and passed a lie detector test.

neal desruisseaux on December 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm

WHY would terrorists do a ‘dry run?’ Wouldn’t they just attack?

Chris Hirose on December 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Wingnuts is so silly. Lookit’em runnign around tracking conspiracy theories while their party falls apart! ha!

farles chew on December 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Would it kill you to check a fact or two? The flight wasn’t canceled. The passenger replaned. And yes, pilots do turn a plane around if a passenger fails to follow orders for any reason. Flight crews routinely change with delays because of regulations governing how long they are allowed to fly. The only ‘evidence’ that they ‘refused’ to continue is from a guy who clearly wasn’t even on the flight. If some crazy guy who wants to look like GI Joe to his buddies is the best you can do, then maybe it’s time to take a reality check.

richie396 on December 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm

DG in GA, I live in Sandy Springs. So I know the area very well too. The lady interviewed by AJC initially is a resident of Marietta. Yet, Laura of marrieta Daily Journal never bothered to contact her to get the story. When AJC interviewed her initially, she never mentioned she saw a guy like Petruna stomping down the aisle like a hero with a big burly texan and intimidating the strange foreigners.

As far as the guy interviewed by her, how come he did not remotely say anything that would give us an idea that there was this hero like Petruna who stomped down the aisle with a Texan let alone the other observations made by Petruna? According to Petruna he was in business class. Do you think Airtran is going to risk a lawsuit by flat out lying that Petruna wasn’t even on the plane? Seriously, think about it. If Petruna was on that flight, he has an excellent case of slander/defamation or whatever legal term woudld be applicable.

If you want me to agree that Airtan didn’t handle this issue well, and that the foreigners were culpable in the mess, no problem. But this idiot Petruna is a fraud and it is annoying to see some of you not be enraged that you were so easily taken to be a fool by him and his buddy and that chaplain moron.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I did attempt to interview the Marietta woman quoted in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. She’d said she believed the men were speaking Spanish, and you better believe I wanted to ask her more questions. However, she didn’t return my call. I did however speak to Petruna (the AJC reporter did not) and found him to be an honorable guy over our two hour conversation for reasons I won’t recount here. You seem to believe that the AJC is the be all and end all, but I’ll put my journalism degree from the Henry Grady School at UGA up against anyone’s…even though I’m just a lowly columnist. By the way, I grew up in Sandy Springs, and it sure has gone downhill since I lived there!

    Laura Armstrong on December 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Seriously, how many times do you guys have to get hysterical over made up nonsense before you learn your lesson?

There are serious problems facing this country, instead of trying to develop constuctive solutions you’re going all in on fantasy after fantasy.

Please stop.

Blake on December 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

“What’s important is that we know that the Muslim world is arrayed against us and unified in their plans to attack our freedoms. It is in that light that we should interpret what is true about this story, not via some arbitrary lens such as the “flight manifest” or what “actually happened”.”

Classic wingnut thinking. Actual relevant evidence, indeed reality itself, is an “arbitrary lens.” The only important thing is what we already know to be true, no matter what the evidence. If we believe it hard enough, it is so. This is Sarah Palin in a nutshell.

hum on December 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

You wingnuts crack me up, I find your bed-wetting tendencies highly entertaining. I’m looking forward to this “lawsuit”, if Petruna never files one I guess we can all surmise he’s lying, right? Is the author of this column then going to issue an apology to AirTran? Anybody want to put some money on any of this?

Lets see, believe a paranoid wingnut or a CORPORATION? Oh my, that is a tough one. But since it’s the wingnut making the accusations the burden of proof is on him. Should be easy, wasn’t there a planeload of witnesses to back him up? By the way, AirTran can’t release a manifesto without a court order because of privacy issues. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. You’d be the first one screaming if they released your name to the public so stop whining and find something real to get all bent out of shape about.

drp on December 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Someone sent me a link to this site, and I must admit my first thoughts were that this was a parody. You know – no hard, reputable facts, feigned “paranoid” phrasing and tone, etc., seemed like it was making fun.

But I’m realizing that the writer of this thing is serious and well intentioned, as is the apparently ‘real’ group of followers for this ‘story’. I suppose it’s yet another example of following the lead of an anecdote, or an ideologically-friendly person’s story, rather than grounding things in hard cold fact, science, analysis, etc. It’s endemic these days, unfortunately.

This site, ultimately, makes me feel sad for the writer and her followers.

not a parody? on December 7, 2009 at 3:58 pm

By the way, Brent Brown, the very credible eyewitness who is CEO of a Cobb County security firm, will be interviewed tonight at 5 and 6pm on WSB-TV Atlanta. Go to their website if you’re not local.

Petruna’s initial e-mail, even with its embellishments, should not prevent the truth of what really happened from being discussed. But it led and went viral, which indicates that people are intensely interested in the topic. Muslim lawsuits, special treatment, passengers being lied to and then trashed in public (Petruna has received death threats and has a family. He’s not interested in being the subject of this firestorm, and I don’t blame him). Debbie’s point that liberals are always quick to criticize big business, unless it doesn’t suit their agenda any more.

Laura Armstrong on December 7, 2009 at 4:03 pm

This is air tran’s contact page:

I think its our duty to contact these jerks and tell them no real American is willing to fly with an airline that protects terrorists.

Let’s force them to tell the truth.

TruePatriot on December 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Oh Billy,, to be civilized to the uncivilized is suicidal.. If you want to be pc/mc please be my guest, Fore I do belive that Darwin will have another place for you… and good bloody ridance.

Drakken on December 7, 2009 at 4:09 pm


    My civility is your over riding concern on this thread/issue?

    huh,….. well then, thanks for you’re concern, I guess.

    billy on December 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Laura Armstrong:
How does Petruna explain the many discrepancies between his account and reality? The plane was delayed, but not canceled. He had to recant the outrageous porn accusation. We are not talking about nitpicking his email on some trivial matters like the shade of clothing or guessing the accent wrong.

Explain to me why Petruna wouldn’t have a great lawsuit on his hands where he can sue Airtan for an obvious lie that is easily proven if he can show that he actually boarded the flight? How does he explain the timeline of the flights Airtran laid out? Basic journalism would have prompted you to clear that.

And explain to me why your source Mr Brown doesn’t mention seeing a couple of Texans marching down the aisle putting these foreigners in their place? Obviously Mr Brown is not some liberal who is trying to whitewash the situation. Don’t you think he would have mentioned that as one of the highlights of his account?

You seriously think one guy got up and said “infidel dog”????

All you say is you talked to Petruna and find him to be an honorable guy. But you do not even relay to the readers a single explanation why Petruna’s account seems to clash with reality on many specific details and neither of the two passengers – one interviewed by you, and the other interviewed by the AJC- remember him or his big Texan burly friend.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Laura, did you also ask Petruna why he refused to respond to AJC’s calls? You would think that with Jim Wooten on board, he would have at least one conservative ally on that editorial board. I am sure if AJC would cover it up so blatantly, Jim Wooten would let the readers hear about it in his column. Is the AJC capable of not being skeptical enough of Airtran’s press release? sure. But will they intentionally lie about it? I highly doubt it. Neither of these players are big enough to warrant any kind of a coverup.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Laura, this is the biggest problem I had with your account
“They immediately initiated a campaign to discredit and ridicule the writer, who actually had the audacity to speak boldly about the escalating fear and anger on the flight, though he admitted to me yesterday he’d taken artistic license with a couple points, never imagining it would travel beyond his circle of friends. He’s not a journalist, and has no wish to become the next Joe the Plumber, he said.”

First of all, you sanitize the issue by implicitly agreeing with him that he merely took artistic license with a couple of points. You act like all he did was exaggerate in colorful language what he might have told those strange foreigners or the clothing they wore. You know his lies were much more than that. And then for you to validate his excuse that he wasn’t intending it to be a public forum misses the point that this is a guy who doesn’t mind outright lying to his friends. What kind of man is that? Is he someone with an inferiority complext that needs to boost his self esteem?

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I tried to verify the e-mail I received the way so many of you did. Unlike the liberals in this audience, those with pre-9-11 mentalities, I did not dissect Petruna’s story, but went to Air Tran for further information. I did not go first to the AJC, as I believe all their staff cuts have seriously degraded the quality of their journalism, which is obvious because their report is mainly a rehash of the Air Tran website, except for the woman they quoted. When Air Tran would not speak with me (or other Atlanta media), and the only statement they issued last week was a pubic trashing of this customer’s e-mail(as a former PR person, I found that bizarre), it was quite disappointing. The focus of my concern, rather than repeating the details of Petruna’s e-mail, was that an air crew felt it necessary to turn a full airplane around and go back to the gate. That is highly, highly unusual. I learned from Brent Brown that after the crew was replaced, the plane was again stopped for the luggage to be removed (but that contradicts Air Tran’s story). I did not include that in my column due to space considerations…my readers had not even heard (most of them) of the initial controversy, so I had to start there. My column is not intended to be an in depth study of any of its topics, but a conversation starter. I rarely break news,but I sure am glad to have found out Brown was on the flight. And as to why other passengers haven’t come forward, do you imagine they might be busy people with lives and no time to deal with public scrutiny on a topic of international concern (terrorism)that might include death threats or law suits? It’s easy to sit in the warmth of your computer room and criticize, but it’s a whole other thing to find yourself in the middle of something like this. And to whoever called the Chaplain a moron, that is so pathetic. You know nothing about this man, and by the way, why aren’t any of the debunkers/critics focussing on finding out who the perpetrators of this incident are? This shifting of the blame or the attention is really bizarre.

    Laura Armstrong on December 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

      Laura, your contention that planes being turned around because of an uncooprative passenger is “highly, highly unusual” is pure, unadulterated BUNK.
      You obviously know very little if anything about commercial flying in the post 9/11 era.
      It happens a hell of a lot – since 9/11, of course, such incidents have increasd by hundreds of percent, preferiing being very careful over valor.
      The bare facts of this incident are nearly identical to the thousdands of incidents that happen around the world every single day.
      Yes, planes are turned every single day, for similar reasons as what happened in this case.
      As for your childish cliche that liberals have “pre 9/11 mindsets”: just because we’re not paranoid to the point we see attacks and conspiracies in every little incident, does not mean we’re complacent, or happy for another attack to happen, or any of your other pathetic cliches.
      Grow up.
      AS I said earlier, your paranoid wolf crying is dangerous in itself.

      cinesimon on December 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm

AirTran says nothing happened. The FAA says nothing happened. The NTSB says nothing happened.

Clearly, this is a giant conspiracy involving the airline and the government to cover up terrorist dry runs. And since Petruna wasn’t even on the flight in question, he must be in on it too, since he doubtlessly diverted attention from a real dry run which happened on another flight!

Or you can just accept the simple, logical truth – that Petruna was lying through his teeth and constructed this grand brouhaha out of nothing at all.

Jack Carter on December 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm


    I suppose we’ll all learn a little more about how nothing happened when they interview Brent Brown on WSB-TV tonight at 5 and at 6.

    billy on December 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Snopes is legitimate, you wingnuts have always had trouble dealing with facts (reality has a liberal bias to it, I guess). The guy who’s wondering why his links are being “scrubbed”, paranoia is a very unattractive trait. If you’re sitting in the front of the plane and the guy next to you is talking on his cell phone, how do you know he’s talking to people in the back of the plane, especially if they’re speaking a foriegn language? I will bet you a thousand dollars no one called the flight attendant an “infidel dog”, that would certainly be a good way to blow your cover if you were in fact up to no good. And why does this story have to have TEXANS in it to come and save the day? That right there tipped me off that this whole thing is a bunch of crap.

Facts and logic, they scare the hell out of you wingnuts, don’t they?

drp on December 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm

funny thing this story.

i’ve been following it since nov. 17 when it was first reported that an airtran flight had to go back to the gate due to someone not getting off of a cell phone. like many others in atlanta who work for the airlines (my office is literally 200 yards from runway # 1), i was at first taken by the insolence of someone who would not get off their freakin’ phone even when the flight attendants were telling them that they would have to return to the gate.. i thought “wow, i’ve been on planes with some real jerks, but this guy would take the cake”

so then, this story comes out on nov. 18.. and i thought, hmm, that makes sense, he didn’t even have a phone and didn’t speak english.. ok, well, i guess i understand that, but still seems a little over the top to come back to the gate over a camera… but i’ve seen some flight attendants on real power trips in my years of flying.

please notice that:
a) nothing is mentioned about any terrorism
b) the person quoted in the story ON THE RECORD as being on the flight doesn’t mention any kind of altercation except that the flight attendants told him twice
c) the plane flew to houston without incident.

so what i want to know is this: if this ted petruma really was the hero of the day, where are the corroborating witnesses? i mean, there’s no way you could silence 100+ passengers about something like this.

poor ted.. he’s not even joe the plumber.

ralph wiggum on December 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm

WSB is owned by the same company as the AJC, BTW.

Ralph on December 7, 2009 at 4:58 pm

What an incredible stupid bitch you are – oh wait! A wingnut! Well, what did I expect?

dave™© on December 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Also Ralph, you say I “sanitize the issue” of Petruna’s e-mail. Call it what you will, but the man never intended that mail to go public. Not everyone is a skilled writer or trained watcher even, so I can excuse his slight exageration on two small points (the attire and the porn, which he told me another passenger mentioned after they de-planed). I’ll leave the nitpicking of his e-mail up to Air Tran who, let’s face it, has successfully shifted attention away from their actions that day and onto their passenger. Petruna isn’t Joe the Plumber, but he isn’t Balloon boy’s dad either. He doesn’t want the attention and has a family to consider. I found him to be a softspoken patriot, afraid this controversy will cost him his job during these tough economic times. I did not defend his e-mail to readers, but tried to report his main points. I had other points to make. So go watch Brown, who now has to overcome the controversy of Petruna, in order to get the truth out, or his version, in any case. People see things differently, but I’ll trust Brown’s trained eye, to move us closer to the truth.

Laura Armstrong on December 7, 2009 at 5:09 pm


    For me, Mr. Brown’s account tonight will be key as I have very little confidence in Petruna’s version. Mr. Brown appears to very credible and I applaud you for helping to bring his commentary forward. I would hope that should he corroborate the basics and possibly bring new information to light, that you will be relentless in your pursuit to get the whole story out. Thank you again.

    billy on December 7, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Ms. Armstrong —

    You certainly have a peculiar way of definiing “patriot” and “honorable” when you attach it to Tedd Petruna’s name.
    A man who concocts tall tales in an attempt to inflame hatred and bigotry is honorable?

    He seems to only wish to speak with conservative bloggers and chaplains. So may I indulge you two simple questions —

    1. Do you believe Tedd Petruna was on the flight?
    2. Do you believe AirTran is lying when they say he was not on the flight?

    You spoke with him for TWO hours and didn’t include one quote from him in your story for the Marietta Daily Journal? And you seem to make the case in your story for wanting to get to the truth?!

    Ms. Armstrong, I’ll add just one more simple question — how is a man who concocts a tall tale in an effort to inflame hatred and enable bigotry honorable?

    There is no more heinous threat to the American way of life than radical Islam. Conservatives and liberals together realize this, although I don’t understand why some of the sycophants on this website insist that liberals can’t see it.
    You seem to want to join Ms. Schlussel and her fan club in an attempt to trivialize this threat when you stand behind Petruna
    in seeing the bogeyman where there is no evidence of one.

    I really would appreciate your answers to my three questions, and I suppose some of the more level-headed posters here would welcome it as well. Thank you for your indulgence.

    Joel Miller on December 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      I’m sorry, Ms. Armstrong, but your last two sentences have me puzzled and posting again!

      ” . . why aren’t any of the debunkers/critics focussing on finding out who the perpetrators of this incident are? This shifting of the blame or the attention is really bizarre.”

      Just what do you contend was the incident? It seems to be one or perhaps two foreigners of either Spanish or Arabic descent who insisted on either talking on their cell phones or looking at photos on their cameras. And when thir behavior forced the captain to return to the gate, this irritated many other passengers. When the chaplain finally boards, he mentions that other foreigners would simply retrieve laptops from the overhead compartment or speak in their native tongue, but I don’t see the evil in this.

      Why should anyone be concerned about these perpetrators, as you put them? Quite frankly, I’m much more concerned with you, Petruna and others enabling bigotry.

      Joel Miller on December 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

If he has the guts to threaten passengers and flight attendants, why is he so afraid to talk to newspapers/media?

Michael on December 7, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Go watch WSB. Brown is on in 5.

Laura Armstrong on December 7, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    i’ll let it slide that he may have exaggerated some key points, but how does he or you get around the facts that

    a) he wasn’t on the plane
    b) he doesn’t work for raytheon

    i’m not saying it didn’t happen, i’m just asking how in the world he could possibly know this WITHOUT ACTUALLY BEING ON THE PLANE

    i don’t care how softspoken he is nor do i doubt his patriotism, but c’mon, are all of you people saying that Airtran would blatantly LIE about all of this when there had to have been dozens if not hundreds of people on board who could and would testify to the contrary? What did airtran do? buy them off with peanuts and vouchers?

    oooh scary airtran… buwahahahhaha

    clancy wiggum on December 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Apparently this story is a complete fabrication – big surprise considering it started out as an email (and we all know how reliable chain emails are).

The FAA and the airline have both found that there was no such occurrence. So we’re left with one of two options: a) it didn’t happen and the gentleman in question made up an impressive-sounding story to make himself look good or b) there is a conspiracy that involves the FAA, AirTran, NTSB, and the media.

Occam’s Razor, ladies and gentlemen: option A makes far more sense. Let’s not be so hasty to start the loony parade.

Greg K., PA on December 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    greg k., do you honestly think these wingnuts have any idea what occam’s razor is?

    76 trombones are already leading up this parade, with beck, debbie schlussel and now this laura armstrong as drum majors…it won’t stop now.

    clancy wiggum on December 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm


    Let me get this straight, the airplane that Petruna wasn’t on was turned around while taxiing beacuse nothing happened on the airplane but they wanted allow Mr. Petruna to witness the ensuing circus that didn’t happen at the gate and give him the opportunity to write himself into the events that didn’t happen to make himself look good.

    billy on December 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Ok, anyone see the newscast? I’m in NY and went to their site, but found nothing. I’m sure it’ll be on YouTube by late evening. I hope someone can post the link so that we can kill this story once and for all. I doubt he will corroborate Petruna’s fantasy account.

Laura, when can we expect the retraction in your newspaper?

Henry on December 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm

So Laura Armstrong, Debbie Shlussel and others want us to believe the following:
-that Petruna’s bizarre orginal email is true for the most part;
– his ‘patriotism’ has resulted in death threats;
-he actually does have a boarding pass for the flight concerned;
-the airline, the TSA, the police, likely anti-terror and other authorities, also every other passenger on the flight, is involved in a conspiracy to discredit him and y’all;
-Despite having been offered not one piece of solid evidence – no boarding pass, no proof of death threats – no proof that anyone spoken to is telling the truth, we must believe everything because laura Armstrong finds them honorable.

Apparently if we find this not only hard to believe but hilariously comical, then we are lefty libs who hate America and would be happy for our country to be attacked again.

Yet surely even the most partisan and lazy of real journalists would be looking to offer the public actual proof that anything said is even possibly true. Or do Armstrong and Shlossel simply not think that Americans these days need any evidence to believe what is said? Have the terrorists won? Are we so scared of attack now that we’ll believe abslutely anything if it backs up your apparently fear-based existence?

I’m sorry but in my opinion, this silly wolf crying is just as potentially dangerous as your fake ‘dry run’. It’s this kind of thing that will take precious resources away from the brave and intelligent people charged with protecting our country, and who must follow up real – or at leadt hnestly attained – leads.
The more you people cry wolf, the more you put us in danger.

This is not about left or right, kids – this is about bigotry and ignorance and fear(which suggests the terrorists have definitely beaten some Americans already), informing your version of reality – certainly reality seems to have eluded you entirely.

If you guys are so desperate to be known as hero patriots, then how about acting like it.

cinesimon on December 7, 2009 at 5:52 pm

1) The guy was reportedly not even on the flight
2) The claim has not been substantiated by any other witnesses
3) The claim is actually *denied* by the FAA, AirTran and other passengers
4) The press and government agencies routinely report thwarted terrorist attacks.

Yet somehow the most reasonable thing to conclude is that this is some huge cover-up? Not only is the story uncorroborated but it’s hardly worthy of covering up now is it?

Wise up folks.

Amazed on December 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Dont you fucking idiot teabaggers/birthers ever get tired of being so goddamn wrong all the time? It doesn’t take a genius, or a heavily photoshopped Jew cunt like Mizz Debbie-does-Dildos(another hopelessly single wingnut twat just like the rest) to realize what absolute BULLSHIT this story is. But that is what is really fucking funny about you dumbass wingnuts. You latch onto anything that will confirm your infantile prejudices with such passion and fervor, there is no way to can go back once reality hits you in your ugly faces.Sejus

That’s why no one takes you morons seriously anymore. That’s why Palin will never be president. That’s why you all suck Glen Becks

JesusBuiltMyLawnmover on December 7, 2009 at 6:06 pm


JesusBuiltMyLawnmover on December 7, 2009 at 6:07 pm

The media get things wrong and then cover it up to hide their mistakes all the time. For instance how many decades did we have to wait to learn THIS:

Ralphie on December 7, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Oh, well – it MUST be the case here then, Ralphie!

cinesimon on December 7, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Ms. Laura Armstrong…when can we expect that retraction?

Unless Tedd has showed you a boarding pass at the minimum, I would say you owe your readers and your fellow journalists much more than this.

Henry on December 7, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    even if we see a boarding pass that means NOTHING..

    a board pass doesn’t mean you actually boarded a plane (for those of you unfamiliar with air travel), it just means you have a seat on a plane. i’ve had dozens of boarding passes that i never used for one reason or another.

    and if you want to believe airtran and the media are in some big scary conspiracy, go right ahead.. but i’m still waiting for someone to explain how they silenced the rest of the passengers.

    clancy wiggum on December 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Flight 297 Passenger: Incident Bigger Than AirTran Claims

What an awful “news” story. What kind of journalism do you guys have down there in Georgia? I mean, even the headline is misleading. You wanna know the juice to this story? Brent Brown, a security expert, going on the record.

“It was extremely intense. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said passenger Brent Brown.

THAT is the first quote. Brutal. Then there’s this bit of editorializing:

As the Houston-bound flight taxied to the runway, several in a group of about a dozen men of Middle Eastern descent started walking the aisles and using their cell phones, Brown said.

Really? No mention of the on record interview saying the men were Spanish? No debunking of shouts of “infidel dog,” “full [Arab] attire” or porno videos? Another hack job. [Also notice that the Middle Eastern descent is not quoted by Brown, but rather used as a run-on sentence]

And it ends with this little nugget:

Within days, the incident went viral on the Internet which prompted news coverage. Internet rumor control sites seemingly couldn’t make heads or tails of the incident. AirTran responded by posting an article that called most of the claims an “urban myth.”

Wow. So no mention that Tedd Petruna was NOT on the plane? No mention that his racist, error-riddled letter was the basis for all of this? Insane. And no mention of the points Brown refutes from Tedd’s story. Mr. Brown should have been more candid about his account being drastically different that the original story.

I’m glad Mr. Brown got some free air time to lend his credentials as a “security expert.” I hope by coming forward he gets some new business. Hey, it’s tough out there.

Henry on December 7, 2009 at 6:15 pm

That’s like demanding Fox behave like real journalists and ‘fess up and aplogize when it becomnes obvious they’ve made stuff up to suit their overall narrative.
You know they use Dan Rather as evidence they are accurate in their reporting – yet the very fact that he apologozed quickly over something many at Fox do few times a day, tells even the most foggy-brained among us that people like the Fox folk, Debbie Laura etc simply don’t believe retractions are necessary, even if their researching was lazy and agenda driven, resulting in an wildly inaccurate(if entertainingly comical) story – because after all: they have RIGHTEOUSNESS on their side!
Like the C Steet oliticains, it appears that these people really do see themselves as chosen ones – and they don’t seem to feel like they have to play by the basic rules that make journalism journalism.
Very basic things like hard proof(boarding passes, proof of death threats), researching for precedent(do planes turn around for this kind of reason often?)are apprently beyond them.

cinesimon on December 7, 2009 at 6:29 pm

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