An international flight, an apparent kidnapping and an unknowing plane full of passengers made for a bizarre scenario Thursday that unfolded 35,000 feet above the ground.
It should have been a routine flight for 180 passengers bound for Beijing Thursday; little did they know they were in the middle of a custody dispute.
The United Airlines flight departed Virginia's Dulles International Airport at 12:39 p.m. When it reached Canadian air space, the FBI ordered the Boeing 777 back to Virginia after learning a kidnapping suspect was on board.
Flight 897 landed back at Dulles five hours after its departure.
Once at the gate, passenger Lane Bailey says the pilot made an announcement; the incident stemmed from a child custody investigation. According to law enforcement sources, a child was traveling with his mother.
The child's father, an American citizen, alerted the FBI fearing the mother was taking the child to China with no plans of returning.
At the airport, the mother was taken into police custody on attempted kidnapping charges. The child was returned safely to his father.
The ordeal soon started to make sense to the passengers onboard.
"The pilot came on board and said we were experiencing mechanical problems," Bailey said. "After they left, the pilot came back on and said that he deliberately mislead us, he thought that, in his judgment that it was the best thing to do, given the circumstances of potential abduction that that's the reason we had diverted."
The child's mother, who was arrested on Thursday at Dulles, is expected in court later today.
Had the plane landed in Canada or China and had the FBI, not intervened, the incident may have turned into a protracted international custody battle.
In 2009, David Goldman's case drew worldwide attention after his son Sean was taken by his then-wife to Brazil.
After a five year legal battle, Goldman gained custody of his then nine-year-old.