Exclusive: The Airplane Mystery Wire that Triggered Delta Scare

Fighter planes placed on battle stations while plane returned to New York.

July 16, 2012, 11:08 AM

July 16, 2012 — -- New details emerged today about the two mysterious pieces of wire encased in straws that triggered a short-lived but widely-reported terror scare on a Delta flight last week from JFK airport in New York to Madrid.

A government picture of one of the wires, obtained by ABC News, provides the first look of what a federal air marshal feared could be a component for a bomb.

The wire that led to the false alarm appears to be no more than two inches long, running through a dark straw shield.

Authorities speculated it could be part of a rectifier, a device that converts AC to DC current.

Federal authorities also revealed today that the Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield, Massachusetts was placed at "battle stations" as Delta flight 126 aborted its route to Madrid and turned around north of the island of Nantucket to return to JFK airport in New York.

A public affairs spokesperson at NORAD, Lt. Commander Bill Lewis said, "We were aware of the situation but we did not launch any aircraft."

The plane, with 206 passengers on board, returned to JFK and declared an overweight landing emergency due to the amount of fuel on board for the transatlantic trip. The plane landed without incident.

According to a report on the incident, the two wires in the right rear lavatory were first discovered by a flight attendant who notified the flight's first officer who then alerted one of a team of federal air marshals on the flight.

Concern apparently grew because the wires, one on the lavatory floor and the other on the toilet, "were not there during a pre-flight check," according to the report reviewed by ABC News.

The report said none of the lavatory's panels had been tampered with and the wires did not appear to be part of the aircraft.

The federal air marshals questioned a 43-year-old male passenger identified by flight attendants as the last person to be near the lavatory before the discovery of the wires.

He was identified in the report as traveling on a Bolivian passport with a U.S. green card. Initial reports suggested he was of Pakistani descent.

The air marshals cleared the passenger after he denied using the lavatory and a background check conducted by the FBI raised no concerns, according to the report.

There was no immediate comment from representatives of the Federal Air Marshals or the TSA.

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