RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The woman who caused an emergency landing at RDU International Airport has been charged. Tiffany Miles is charged with airport obstruction which is a misdemeanor.
According to her arrest warrant, Miles was aboard a flight Wednesday from Jacksonville, FL heading to Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. when she became disruptive. Miles is scheduled to appear in court in March.
When such an incident happens, decisions have to be made in a short period of time.
September 11, 2001 brought monumental change when it comes to airline security.
Scanners and pat downs manage to keep guns, knives and other items that could be used as a weapon from getting on the aircraft. What the TSA can’t do is know whether someone is going to become irate, have a mental health crisis or a drug or alcohol induced incident while on a flight.
The flight crew and sometimes passengers are the first line of defense, with the pilot needing to take quick and decisive action.
“It is something the flight crew has to do on the spot. They have to make those on-the-spot decisions,” said Kevin Kupietz, the chair of Elizabeth City State University’s Aviation and Emergency Management Program.
“Ultimately, the pilot is the person in charge in the air and the pilot will make that decision as to whether they can go ahead and continue to their destination or whether they need to go ahead and land, Kupietz added.
Kupietz said there can be a wide range of options in that decision-making process.
“There’s a big difference between who’s going to be involved if somebody was just upset and got irritated because they didn’t have the right seat or if somebody who went onboard the airplane [is] actually meaning to do harm to themselves or other passengers or somebody else on the ground,” he said.
What exactly happened on board helps determine whether airport police, the TSA or the FBI become involved. The bigger the threat, the higher up the law enforcement chain it goes.
Kupietz likens it to a traffic stop — the level of severity decides what comes next, including passenger interviews and the collection of any videos made on board.
“Those people that actually come onto the plane and escort the person off, they’re going to make the determination whether or not they need to have more evidence for possible prosecution or if there was something more nefarious in the works,” said Kupietz.