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Flight Attendant Made Bomb Threat

March 28, 2002

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A Virgin Atlantic flight attendant was arrested for allegedly writing a bomb threat aboard a plane in January, forcing the London-to-Orlando flight to be diverted to Iceland.

Michael Phillipe, a 25-year-old French citizen, was charged with interference with crew members on an international flight, the FBI announced. He was scheduled for a hearing in federal court in Newark, N.J., on Thursday afternoon, a day after FBI agents arrested him there.

Phillipe faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

On Jan. 19, Virgin Atlantic Flight 27 was en route to Florida when a threat was found scrawled on a bathroom mirror. The message, ``American must die,″ was written in soap, officials said.

A second message, written on an air sickness bag, stated, ``Bin Laden is the best Americans must die there is a bomb on board Al Quaida.″ It was Phillipe who reported finding the threats, authorities said.

As a precaution, the Boeing 747 was diverted to Keflavik, Iceland, where the 322 passengers and 18 crew were questioned and asked to give handwriting samples.

Police found no explosives aboard the plane and concluded that the threat had been a hoax. The flight continued to Orlando the next day, with two police officers providing security.

The charge was filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa because Orlando is in that court’s jurisdiction.

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