AirDrop airplane bomb prank lands teen in jail

Using AirDrop in iOS 15
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

A student has admitted to a misguided prank that saw them send a bomb hoax to the passengers of an airplane bound for Chicago using their iPhone's AirDrop feature.

The hoax saw the student send an AirDrop file transfer request to other passengers that read "I have a bomb would like to share a photo."

The plane was subsequently taken back off the runway and returned to a gate while authorities were called.

AirDrop gone wrong

AirDrop is a feature that allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac users to wirelessly transfer files to each other and is exclusive to Apple devices. Users can lock their devices down so that people they don't know can't initiate a transfer, theoretically preventing instances like this from cropping up.

To that end, Apple has already tweaked iOS to change AirDrop's settings so that iPhones only accept files from everyone for ten minutes at a time. After that, they revert to only allowing messages from known contacts.

In this instance, the teen's prank landed them in the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department after they confessed to sending the message — but only after evidence had pointed in their direction, Sky News reports.

In a statement released by the FBI, it said there was "no known credible threat to the aircraft or its passengers." As a result, the agency said the El Paso County attorney had agreed to press charges — charges of false alarm or report, to be precise.

AirDrop can be a great way to transfer files, but some people continue to have issues with it beyond the one that cropped up here. Wireless transfers can be problematic, but there are other solutions. There are plenty of iPhone flash drives that can be used in a similar manner, with Lightning and USB ports that ensure the ultimate in compatibility.

It might not be as convenient, but you're less likely to be sent a bomb hoax via flash drive.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.