Charges filed in hijacking scare on Seattle-bound flight

Charges filed in hijacking scare on Seattle-bound flight
F-15 (Photo courtesy Oregon Air National Guard)
SEATTLE - A Hawaii man has been indicted for allegedly making a hoax call to the FBI in January claiming that a passenger on board an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle was a hijacker.

Military jets scrambled to escort the jetliner after the FBI received the call, and agents questioned a passenger on board the plane for nearly two hours after it landed at Sea-Tac Airport.

Once the FBI determined that the passenger was not an actual threat, agents went about tracking down the person who had made the hoax call and prompted the unfounded hijacking scare.

Ultimately, investigators identified a suspect, Timothy David Hershman, 58, of Kona, Hawaii. He was indicted Wednesday by a Honolulu federal grand jury on one count of filing false information and hoaxes.

If convicted, Hershman faces a possible maximum of five years in prison.

Two F-15 jets from the Oregon Air National Guard escorted Flight 819 from Hawaii to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after a threat call was received Jan. 17 at the Honolulu FBI office claiming that a passenger on the plane was a hijacker.

Agents talked to the unidentified passenger for nearly two hours, said Ayn Dietrich of the Seattle FBI Office. She described him as cooperative.

Officers boarded the jet through rear stairs and removed the man from the plane, airline spokesman Paul McElroy said. The passenger had been seated at the back of the aircraft and "slept most of the flight," he added.

Court papers filed Wednesday did not explain how the FBI identified Hershman as the suspected hoax caller.