Terry Lee Loewen, 58, has been charged with one count each of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property and attempting to provide support to terrorist group al Qaeda.
According to a criminal complaint, Loewen thought he was dealing with fellow Muslim extremists, but he was actually working with undercover FBI agents.
As an avionics technician for an aeronautics company, Loewen had access to the Wichita Mid-Continent Regional Airport. Authorities say Loewen wanted to set off a car bomb at the airport, but the bomb was inert and was part of an FBI sting.
Loewen had been under investigation for about six months. He expressed his desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda in an online conversation with an undercover FBI agent, according to a criminal complaint. In August, the FBI agent offered to connect Loewen with someone "who could help him engage in violent jihad."
"Let me get to the bottom line without being too revealing. I have numerous ideas of ways I could perform jihad in the path of Allah," Loewen says to the undercover FBI agent.
In October, the undercover agent told Loewen he had returned from overseas after meeting with individuals connected with al Qaeda. The agent told him the "brothers" were excited to hear about his access to the airport and asked Loewen if he would be willing to plant some type of device, the documents said.
Loewen allegedly responded with, "Wow! That's some heavy stuff you just laid down. Am I interested? Yes. I still need time to think about it, but I can't imagine anything short of arrest stopping me."
The criminal complaint says Loewen sent the FBI agent photos of his airport access badge, entrance gates to the tarmac and devices used to access the gates. Then in October and November, Loewen met with an FBI agent to discuss the "mission to blow up a plane with numerous people on board." The two agreed to execute the plan just before Christmas to "cause the greatest impact physically and economically."
On Wednesday, Loewen met with another undercover agent and helped assemble the device, and then Friday, he finished wiring the device to render it operational, the criminal complaint stated.
Loewen was arrested at about 5:45 a.m. as he tried to enter the tarmac in a vehicle he believed was loaded with high explosives. The materials in the car were inert, and no one at the airport was in any immediate danger, authorities said.
In a letter dated Dec. 11 for a family member, Loewen stated, "By the time you read this I will, if everything went as planned, have been martyred in the path of Allah. There will have been an event at the airport which I am responsible for. The operation was timed to cause maximum carnage + death."
Authorities said they believe Loewen acted alone. No other arrests were expected.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.