American Airlines Flight 63 (2001)

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American Airlines Flight 63 bombing attempt
Richard Reid's Shoes.jpg
Richard Reid's shoes
LocationAirborne, between Paris and Miami
DateDecember 22, 2001
(21 years ago)
 (December 22, 2001)
TargetCivilian airliner
Attack type
Attempted suicide bombing
WeaponImprovised explosive device concealed in shoe
AssailantRichard Reid
MotiveIslamic terrorism
American Airlines Flight 63
American Airlines Boeing 767-300ER (N384AA) (7842806880).jpg
N384AA, the aircraft involved, 11 years after the incident
Bombing attempt
SummaryAfter bomb failed to detonate properly, flight performed an emergency diversion to Boston and landed safely
Aircraft typeBoeing 767-300ER
OperatorAmerican Airlines
IATA flight No.AA63
ICAO flight No.AAL63
Call signAmerican 63
Flight originCharles de Gaulle Airport
StopoverLogan International Airport
DestinationMiami International Airport

On December 22, 2001, a failed shoe bombing attempt occurred aboard American Airlines Flight 63. The aircraft, a Boeing 767-300ER (registration N384AA) with 197 passengers and crew aboard, was flying from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, to Miami International Airport in the U.S. state of Florida.

The perpetrator, Richard Reid, was subdued by passengers after unsuccessfully attempting to detonate plastic explosives concealed within his shoes. The flight was diverted to Logan International Airport in Boston, escorted by American jet fighters, and landed without further incident. Reid was arrested and eventually sentenced to three life terms plus 110 years, without parole.


As Flight 63 was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, Richard Reid, an Islamic fundamentalist from the United Kingdom and self-proclaimed al-Qaeda operative, carried shoes that were packed with two types of explosives. He had been refused permission to board the flight the day before.

Passengers on the flight complained of a smoky smell shortly after the meal service. One flight attendant, Hermis Moutardier, walked the aisles of the plane to locate the source. She found Reid sitting alone near a window, attempting to light a match. Moutardier warned him that smoking was not allowed on board the aircraft, and Reid promised to stop.

A few minutes later, Moutardier found Reid leaning over in his seat and unsuccessfully attempted to get his attention. After she asked him what he was doing, Reid grabbed at her, revealing one shoe in his lap, a fuse leading into the shoe, and a lit match. He was unable to detonate the bomb: perspiration from his feet dampened the triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and prevented it from igniting.

Moutardier tried grabbing Reid twice, but he pushed her to the floor each time, and she screamed for help. When another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, arrived to try to subdue Reid, he fought her and bit her thumb.

The 6-foot-4-inch (1.93 m) tall Reid, who weighed 215 pounds (97 kg), was subdued by the flight attendants and other passengers and immobilized by the cabin crew using plastic handcuffs, seatbelt extensions, and headphone cords. A doctor administered diazepam found in the flight kit of the aircraft.[2] Many of the passengers only became aware of the situation when the pilot announced that the flight was to be diverted to Logan International Airport in Boston.

Two F-15 fighter jets escorted Flight 63 to Logan Airport. The plane parked in the middle of the runway, and Reid was arrested on the ground while the rest of the passengers were bused to the main terminal. Authorities later found over 280 grams (10 oz) of TATP and PETN hidden in the hollowed soles of Reid's shoes,[3] enough to blow a substantial hole in the aircraft.[4] He pleaded guilty, and he was convicted, sentenced to three life terms plus 110 years without parole and incarcerated at ADX Florence, a supermax federal prison in Colorado.


Six months after the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, New York, on November 12, 2001, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah agreed to cooperate with American authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence. He said that fellow Canadian Abderraouf Jdey had been responsible for the flight's destruction, using a shoe bomb similar to that found on Reid several months earlier. However, it was revealed during the crash investigation that pilot error, not terrorism, brought down the plane. Jabarah was a known colleague of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and said that Reid and Jdey had both been enlisted by the al-Qaeda chief to participate in identical plots.[5][6]

In 2006, security procedures at American airports were changed in response to this incident, with passengers required to remove their shoes before proceeding through scanners.[7] The requirement was phased out for some travelers, particularly those with TSA PreCheck, in 2011.[8] Also in 2011, the rules were relaxed to allow children 12 and younger and adults 75 and older to keep their shoes on during security screenings.[9]

Flight Number 63 continues to be used on the route from Paris to Miami, although the route now operates with a Boeing 777, as American Airlines has retired the 767.[10] N384AA was converted to a cargo aircraft in 2019 following its retirement and now operates for Amerijet International, reregistered as N349CM.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FAA Registry (N384AA)". Federal Aviation Administration.
  2. ^ Thomas, Cathy Booth (September 1, 2002). "Courage in the Air". Time. Archived from the original on June 4, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  3. ^ "Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody". CNN. December 25, 2001. Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  4. ^ Sample, Ian (December 27, 2009). "PETN – hard to detect and just 100g can destroy a car". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 8, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2011.
  5. ^ Mili, Hayder (July 28, 2005). "Securing the Northern Front: Canada and the War on Terror" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 16, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  6. ^ Ressa, Maria (December 6, 2003). "Sources:Reid is al Qaeda operative". Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved September 15, 2006.
  7. ^ "TSA: TSA Travel Assistant". September 26, 2006. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  8. ^ O'Keefe, Ed; Halsey III, Ashley (September 6, 2011). "Shoe removal requirement at airports to be phased out". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  9. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon. "TSA: Children pose little risk, can keep shoes on during security check". Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  10. ^ "American Airlines (AA) #63 ✈ FlightAware". FlightAware. Archived from the original on May 8, 2016. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "N349CM Amerijet International Boeing 767-300(F)". Planespotters. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  12. ^ "N384AA (1993 Boeing 767-323 owned by Cargo Aircraft Management Inc. -- FlightRadar24". FlightRadar24. Retrieved October 22, 2020.

External links[edit]