He explained that the scare began when the young man was “in the process of praying.” The flight attendant noticed the tefillin and asked what he was doing.
The young man’s response was straightforward, Lieutenant Vanore said: “He gave the explanation he was in prayer.”
But the flight attendant was concerned about the tefillin. She called the cockpit and “described it as best as she’d seen it,” Lieutenant Vanore said, “and there was an item wrapped around his head, straps or wires.” “The straps did appear to be cables or wires to her,” he said. “To the naked eye looking at it, it looked like that. She said it had wires running from it and going up to his fingers. When they notified the pilot of that, he had to follow his protocol. It’s hard to Monday-morning-quarterback it.”
Now, I feel really bad for Caleb Leibowitz (the young man in question). But I do have to question his judgment.
First, kid, that's like what, an hour flight? Hour and a half at most. Next time just say Tfilat Haderech quietly when you're taking off and then, I dunno, read the Daf Yomi or read a magazine or a book or something.
But more importantly, dude, you do realize how little Americans (or anyone else) know about the religious practices of others, particularly non-Christian religions. Heck, there are for that matter plenty of Jews (though obviously not Orthodox ones) in the U.S. who have little to no knowledge about tefillin. I admit even I can't even put them on correctly myself--mind you, I can't really put a necktie on correctly either.
But seriously, look at some of the articles about your ordeal and the errors they contain about Judaism.
The Louisville Courier-Journal has a picture of you with the following caption:
Caleb Leibowitz (center) prays during the afternoon/evening service at Congregation Anshei Sfard
Well, which was it? Afternoon (mincha) or Evening (maariv)?