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A “radio problem” caused panic at New York Kennedy (JFK) airport Tuesday night. A JetBlue flight departing New York City for Los Angeles (LAX) lost contact with air traffic control and the miscommunication led to the aircraft being stormed by a SWAT team.
JFK professional aircraft spotter Shaq noticed something was amiss a little after 8:00pm on Tuesday night, pinging JetBlue on Twitter about the flight.
But the flight wouldn’t depart anytime soon. At 8:36pm, Shaq posted a photo of the aircraft surrounded by emergency vehicles.
According to a CNN law enforcement source, the aircraft “sent out a hijack code notifying air traffic control that there was a security threat onboard.” This likely was the pilot sending out a 7500 code on the aircraft’s transponder — an indication to air traffic control that the aircraft has been hijacked.
It seems likely that the pilots meant to set the transponder to 7600 — indicating a loss of radio communications — as air traffic control was unable to contact the aircraft after receiving the hijacking code.
With JFK just minutes away from one of the most densely populated centers in the US, law enforcement officials didn’t take chances, approaching and ultimately storming the aircraft. A passenger on the flight reported that “SWAT came and told us to pull our phones away and leave (our) hands up.” Against better judgement, she snapped these photos of the situation.
Note: The flight was operated by JetBlue, not Delta as referenced in the tweet.
After the aircraft and passengers were cleared, the flight was re-assigned to another aircraft. Despite the long ordeal, JetBlue Flight 1623 arrived in Los Angeles at 2:25am local time, three hours and 32 minutes after its scheduled arrival.
The aircraft involved in the mishap — an Airbus A321 with registration N944JT — didn’t end up operating this flight. But, it seems the radio communication issue was a quick fix as the aircraft is scheduled to depart JFK Wednesday at 12:37pm for Los Angeles (LAX).
Featured image courtesy of Alexa Curtis via Twitter.
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