High Schooler AirDropped Bomb Threat on Plane During Field Trip: Officials

A tense scene unfolded on a Texas runway after officials say a high schooler on a field trip Airdropped a bomb threat to passengers on a plane preparing to take off.

The incident took place on Friday at El Paso International Airport. American Airlines flight 2051 was set to take off from the airport in Southwest Texas for Chicago, carrying around 125 passengers and eight crew members. Before the plane could take off, however, police say that passengers began to receive Airdropped messages on their phones reading, “I have a bomb would like to share a photo.”

It is unclear at this time how many people onboard the plane received the message. Nonetheless, the disturbing threat prompted the plane to be taxied back to its gate, where an investigation into the matter began.

On Sunday, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that its investigation into the bomb threat determined that a juvenile passenger on the plane had been responsible for the message. Several high schoolers from Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School had been traveling on the flight as part of a mission field trip, with the department reporting that the alleged perpetrator was one of them.

A physical search of the airplane following the initial sending of the message found the threat to be “non-credible,” as no evidence of a bomb was found on board. A spokesperson for Central Catholic High School told WTAE News in Pennsylvania that the message is believed to have been sent by the student as a joke.

Airdrop is a proprietary file-sharing program available on Apple products, like iPhones and iPads, since 2011. It allows users to send things like images, documents, and other sorts of digital files to other users in close proximity. Since users can often send Airdrops to strangers, the service has also become a medium for pranks and harassment, with users sending humorous or inappropriate files, or, as happened in El Paso, changing their name to something threatening.

The unnamed male student is currently in custody at an El Paso juvenile detention facility and facing a charge of felony false alarm or report. Due to the fact that they are underage, authorities have withheld details about the suspect’s identity at this time.

A cruder incident involving Airdrop messages on a plane was reported in August when a Southwest Airlines pilot threatened to deplane passengers on a flight to Cabo San Lucas after someone used the feature to send unsolicited nude photographs to others on the flight.

“So here’s the deal—if this continues while we’re on the ground, I’m going to have to pull back to the gate, everybody’s going to have to get off, we’re going to have to get security involved, and [your] vacation is going to be ruined,” the pilot said, as was captured in a viral TikTok video on the incident.

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