The flight attendant, a 39-year-old woman from Cordova, Tenn., was scheduled to work on a Milwaukee-to-Detroit flight Tuesday morning when federal Transportation Security Administration officers detected an inert grenade in her baggage, said Kim Brooks, a spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County sheriff's office. They called sheriff's deputies, who arrested her about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Brooks said.
The flight attendant, whose name was not released, posted cash bail and is scheduled to appear in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Thursday, Brooks said. She could be charged with disorderly conduct and also could face a federal fine of up to $1,500, said Brooks and TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding.
Northwest has grounded the flight attendant and is conducting its own investigation into the incident, airline spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said. He declined to say how long she had worked for the airline.
Ebenhoch did not know which flight the woman was scheduled to work on, but Northwest Flight 420 is the first flight from Milwaukee to Detroit each day, departing at 6 a.m., airline schedules show. Northwest assigned another flight attendant to fill in for the woman after she was arrested, Ebenhoch said.
Like airline passengers, flight attendants and pilots are required to pass through security checkpoints at the entrance to each airport concourse, where they walk through metal detectors and submit their carry-on bags to X-ray screening.
The list of items that people are prohibited from bringing aboard airliners is posted at each checkpoint and on the TSA's Web site, www.tsa.gov. That list includes both hand grenades and "realistic replicas of explosives."
Not only would the flight attendant have walked past the list every day she worked, but "all of our flight attendants are trained on Homeland Security and government policy on what can be transported aboard aircraft," Ebenhoch said.
Fines for trying to bring most prohibited items aboard airliners typically range from $250 to $1,500, but loaded guns can draw fines of $3,000 to $7,500, Uselding said.
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Federal screeners are seizing roughly 11,500 banned items, such as knives, scissors, and pepper spray, every month.
A uniformed flight attendant was arrested at Dulles International Airport after she turned herself in for allegedly carrying a concealed handgun aboard a flight from Atlanta.
The detective apparently didn't understand that he was supposed to proceed through the checkpoint a different way when carrying a gun.
The TSA is investigating if the woman had gone through security and if the gun passed through a checkpoint unnoticed in Atlanta.