The Federal Aviation Administration is ordering airlines and airports to guard against passengers boarding a plane with explosives hidden in their shoes.
The FAA issued the security directive Sunday in response to Saturday's incident aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight, agency spokeswoman Laura Brown said. The flight was escorted to Boston by F-15s after a passenger, identified by French authorities as a Sri Lankan named Tariq Raja, attempted to light what preliminary tests showed was an explosive hidden in his sneakers.
While the FAA does not release the contents of its directives, Brown said it contained specific instructions for airlines and airports to follow, based on Saturday's incident.
the man accused of trying to detonate explosives
smuggled onto a plane inside his sneakers.
Security guards at airport checkpoints have equipment that detects traces of explosives on carryon baggage, and this technology also can be used to check shoes of passengers. The equipment is used to examine bags of passengers who are deemed to need closer scrutiny.
The Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines Dec. 11 that terrorists might try to hijack a plane in the United States or Europe and hide weapons in their shoes, and issued a new advisory earlier Sunday based on the incident aboard American Airlines Flight 63.
Unlike Sunday's security directive, neither of the earlier advisories ordered the airlines and airports to take specific steps to avoid a repeat of the incident.
Until Sept. 11, authorities had worried that terrorists might place bomb-laden bags on airplanes - like the suitcase that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 - without boarding the plane themselves. Today, luggage is not loaded on international flights unless the passenger also boards.
But Saturday's incident has focused new attention on the threat of a potential suicide bomber smuggling explosives aboard on his person or in clothing.
"In terms of a suicide bombing on an airplane, that is a scenario that has not really been planned for in a serious way," said Paul Hudson, executive director of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Aviation Consumer Action Project. Hudson's daughter was killed on Flight 103 in 1988.
"With what we know about the use of suicide bombers, we have to assume that is a threat, not just a remote possibility," he said.
By Jonathan D. Salant © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed