BOSTON – Fighter jets escorted a London-to-Washington, D.C. United Airlines flight to a landing at Boston's Logan Airport Wednesday after the pilot declared an emergency over a passenger disturbance, FOX News has confirmed.
Transportation Security Administration Director George Naccara refuted initial reports that the incident was terrorist related, and said the passenger was claustrophobic, became upset, and got into a confrontation with the flight crew. The incident was enough to concern the pilot to issue an alert, which activated two fighter jets to escort the plane into Logan, Naccara said.
Naccara denied reports that the 59-year-old woman from Vermont was carrying Vaseline, a screwdriver, matches and a note referencing Al Qaeda. Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman Phil Orlandella initially said an unidentified woman carrying those items had been taken into custody.
"I don't know what she had on board with her, but we have been told she did not have a screw driver, she did not have any liquids such as Vaseline, and any notebook she may have had, it did not contain an Al Qaeda reference," Naccara said. ""This is still playing out, of course. There was speculation in the beginning of all those items, but those have been proven untrue."
Earlier in the morning, United spokesman Brandon Borrman said a female passenger was spotted engaging in what was described as "suspicious" activity, but he could not detail what the activity was.
All passengers and crew were escorted off the plane immediately after it landed at Logan, and were taken to a holding area at the airport for interviews by FBI and other federal security officials.
The plane was isolated on a far runway as ground crew removed all pieces of luggage and placed them on the tarmac for inspection by security personnel and bomb sniffing dogs.
"While details continue to unfold, it appears there was never any danger to passengers and we currently have no identifiable nexus to terrorism in this incident," TSA said in a statement. "TSA will continue to provide a very high level of security for the American traveling public. The passenger remains in the custody of law enforcement at this time and the matter is under investigation."
"If she pulled these out of her carry-on luggage, that would have made many people very concerned," terrorism expert Neil Livingstone told FOX News, referring to the Vaseline, screwdriver and matches that were reported to be in the woman's posession. "She shouldn't have had these items on the aircraft."
"If there was in fact a screwdriver on board, it does make you wonder how it got through with the tightened security," added former homeland security undersecretary Asa Hutchinson.
Last week, British authorities said they foiled a terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights from London to the United States. The alleged conspirators had planned to blow up as many as 10 planes flying from Britain to the U.S. using liquid explosives, which the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's security equipment cannot detect in carry-on luggage.
There are about two-dozen suspects in custody in relation to that investigation. Some officials believe Wednesday was when the first of what may have been a series of attacks would have been launched, had the plot not been uncovered.
The United Kingdom and the United States ratcheted up security at airports after discovering the plot, not allowing passengers to bring on board many liquids, among other items.
The United flight diverted on Wednesday carried 182 passengers and 12 crew members. It was escorted to Boston by two F-15 fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts after a "domestic events network" call was initiated. That's a hotline for aviation officials used when there's a call made that a plane is off route, there's a disturbance on board an aircraft, or a violation of airspace has occurred.
State Police and federal agencies took control of the plane after it landed safely.
The flight departed London Heathrow at 7:55 a.m. local time and was scheduled to arrive at Washington Dulles International Airport at 11:10 a.m. EDT.
Terror scares garner particular attention in Boston because of Logan's history. Members of Al Qaeda hijacked two planes from Logan on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them into the World Trade Center towers in New York.
Logan Airport also was where an American Airlines Paris-Miami flight was diverted in 2001 when Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, tried to blow up the plane. He was thwarted by attendants and passengers after he tried to light a fuse leading to the concealed plastic explosives in his sneakers. He is now serving a life prison sentence.
FOX News' Nick Simeone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.