Qatari Diplomat's Flight Anything but Panicked

Tim Burney, of Centennial, Colo.,is greeted by his wife Lauren at Denver International Airport on April 8, 2010. Tim Burney was on a United Airlines flight that a Qatari diplomat tried to sneak a smoke in an airplane bathroom and sparked a bomb scare.(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Law enforcement was on high alert after a Qatari diplomat made a wisecrack about trying to light his shoe on fire after sneaking a cigarette in an airplane bathroom, but fellow passengers on the plane hardly noticed the commotion.

"It didn't become apparent that there was a problem at least not to me until we had landed and that we'd pulled off the runway and everything started to go pretty fast and then I realized that there was a problem," passenger Tim Burney told CBS' "The Early Show" Thursday.

The diplomat, identified as Mohammed Al-Madadi, was questioned by federal air marshals about the smell of smoke following his trip to the bathroom. Law enforcement officials said he made a joke that he had been trying to light his shoes, referencing "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid's attempt to detonate explosives on a transatlantic flight in 2001.

The federal air marshals restrained Al-Madadi for the remainder of the Washington-to-Denver flight and military jets were scrambled and before the plane landed safely. No explosives were found on the plane and no charges will be filed, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

Burney was seated near the marshals and the suspect and said the situation remained under control.

"I heard the air marshal behind me indicate to the passenger to tell the truth and just relax. And they appeared to have everything under control. You could tell there was a heightened sense of awareness, but it certainly appeared they had everything under control," he said.

"I look back on it and certainly it was almost surreal, but they handled it so well, I think they helped us all remain calm as passengers."