Air-Traffic Controller Questioned by Police After Discovery of a Homemade Pipe Bomb

( The Washington Post) -

An air-traffic controller at a North Carolina airport was arrested after he was found to be in possession of a homemade explosive device, police said.

Paul George Dandan, 30, was arrested Friday, a week after police received a 911 call about a person with a bomb and went to his house in Charlotte, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. A bomb squad sent to the house later confirmed that the device was a homemade pipe bomb, police said.

The investigation led police to another man, Derrick Fells, 39, who they say created the device. Fells told police that he had planned to use the bomb against a neighbor with whom he had a feud, but he changed his mind and gave it to Dandan, an air-traffic controller at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Police did not say how Dandan and Fells knew each other, nor did they say why Fells gave the device to Dandan nor why Dandan accepted it. It also is unclear what plans, if any, Dandan had for the bomb, or if the airport was targeted. A spokesman for the police department did not respond to follow-up questions from The Washington Post.

The airport said in a statement that Dandan did not have access to any aircraft or to restricted areas of the terminal or ramp.

Dandan is employed by the Federal Aviation Administration, working out of the Charlotte airport. He has been working for the FAA since March 2012, according to the agency. The FAA in a statement said it has terminated Dandan’s access to the airport and is cooperating with police.

Dandan has been charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction, acquiring a weapon of mass destruction and transporting a weapon of mass destruction. Fells has been charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction and three counts of manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction.

Both men are being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail, each on a $45,000 bond. It’s unclear if they have attorneys.

The FAA’s airmen database lists Dandan as a student pilot and a control-tower operator. His student pilot license, which was issued in 2011, does not allow him to fly passenger airplanes.

Federal law says that a weapon of mass destruction can be a bomb, a grenade, a rocket, a missile, a mine or other similar weapons designed to kill and seriously hurt people. It can also be in the form of a poisonous chemical, a weapon involving a disease organism, or one that is designed to release deadly radiation.