NEW YORK: A hijack message sent by a JetBlue pilot at the JFK Airport created a massive panic and forced SWAT to come to the scene. Flight 1623 was scheduled to depart for Los Angeles, as the pilot was having problems with the radio transmission. This resulted in security launching a security drill which resulted in total disorder. SWAT forces handled the situation as if a Jetblue hijack was taking place.
Police and firefighters surrounded the A320 Airbus plane, while armed SWAT members stormed on board and forced all the travelers to put their hands up, while they searched the aircraft.
The threat of a hijack on this flight was a false alarm because the pilot transmitted the wrong code to ground control.
I’ve never been told to put my hands up on any plane, but this happened on our @JetBlue plane back to LAX!! Super scary moment as the swat-like team came down the aisle, guns out. #jetblue pic.twitter.com/yHjjpdsuSb
— Daniel Cruz (@DanielRoyCruz) June 27, 2018
Just prior to takeoff from JFK Airport, the pilot was struggling with the onboard radio equipment and wanted to let the ground crew know. He sent the message to the controllers, but due to an oversight, he accidentally used the code assigned for a hijacking.
New York Daily News reported that as soon as the hijacking transmission was received, the drill was launched and all the plane was stopped on the tarmac and kept from proceeding towards the terminal.
JetBlue called the incident a “false alarm.”
It was later determined that there was no security threat and investigators allowed the aircraft to proceed to its destination.
Several passengers took to Twitter sharing their experience. One woman believed she would not get out alive. The pilot even attempted to hold up his phone number, hoping the police would call him so he could talk to them and tell them what had happened on the JetBlue flight headed to Los Angeles.
— Alexa Curtis (@Alexa_Curtis) June 27, 2018
JetBlue later said that “while communication was reestablished via alternate channels, authorities responded out of an abundance of caution.”
While this was a false alarm and all those responding took prompt action to handle the matter but there should be some double check procedure in place when such sensitive codes are used. Those in the industry should consider having an audio or visual confirmation whenever the hijack code is used.