In November 2009, Tedd Petruna claimed a terrorist security test occurred on AirTran flight 297 departing Atlanta. Petruna said that he and another passenger intervened when a group of 11 Middle Eastern men made loud phone calls in Arabic and watched pornography, refusing to stop at flight attendants’ requests. He said law enforcement questioned the 11 men but allowed them to fly, and so many passengers objected that AirTran cancelled the flight. Petruna's emailed statement varies greatly from other reports.
The Associated Press and Fox News reported a flight delay in Atlanta when a passenger refused to turn off his cell phone. When Petruna’s email surfaced, AirTran refuted the story. Petruna was not on the flight 297 manifest, as his originating flight from Ohio arrived late in Atlanta. The passenger who did not end his phone call did not speak English, so he did not understand flight attendants’ instructions. The plane returned to the gate, a translator assisted in explaining the problem, and the flight resumed several hours later. The crew changed not because they refused to fly with the man on board but because the delay caused crew members to reach the maximum hours regulations allow them to work in a shift.
Petruna later said he intended the email only for family and friends and admitted embellishing the story. A friend posted the message to Facebook, where it was picked up by bloggers such as Glenn Beck and Debbie Schlussel as an example of personal heroism and an attempted cover-up of terrorism. Part of the cover-up accusation is that AirTran or the government supposedly faked the flight manifest and conflicting eyewitness reports to cast doubt on Petruna’s account.