Police: Mystery man at LAX was likely off-duty pilot

The JetBlue aircraft at the center of a security alert at LAX Thursday morning was searched and cleared by LAPD bomb squad and was returned to the airline for service, an airport spokeswoman said.

The New York-bound plane was taken out of service after an "unauthorized person'' was seen on a passenger boarding bridge leading to the locked jet, which did not have any crew members or passengers on board at the time.

An airport police officer told news outlets that "we have reason to believe'' that the person seen on the boarding bridge was a "non-revenue pilot'' who was authorized to be on that flight.

The officer said authorities are investigating a report the person subsequently boarded a Virgin Airlines flight headed to JFK.

The security alert began about 6 a.m. when "airport police received a call regarding an unauthorized person trying to access (the) JetBlue aircraft via the passenger boarding bridge,'' according to a statement from the LAX media office.

"The aircraft door was locked and there were no passengers or crew on board,'' the LAX statement said. "As a precautionary measure, the aircraft was towed from Terminal 3 to the remote west end of the airfield.''

Airport police and a Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad were searching the airplane, which was being prepared for flight 24 to JFK International Airport scheduled to leave at 6:30 a.m., LAX officials said.

According to a JetBlue's corporate communications office: "Out of an abundance of caution, aircraft and luggage onboard flight 24 from LAX to JFK are being re-screened following a potential security issue. No customers were onboard the aircraft.''

Airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said late this morning that the plane was released to the airline and was being towed back to Terminal 3.

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