Hijack "Code Word" Sets Off Alert

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Australia's security apparatus went on its highest level of alert for two hours when the pilot of King Air accidentally used a "secret code word" indicating he was being hijacked, while talking with air traffic control. The country's national terrorism emergency plan kicked into full gear, an emergency command post was set up in a bunker in Canberra, the nation's capital, and the plane was tracked by radar and real-time satellite images as it flew from Brisbane to Melbourne. All the while, controllers were peppering the plane's crew with "standard coded phrases used to determine if a hijacking was actually taking place," according to The Australian newspaper. Since the pilot wasn't speaking the same language, it was deduced that no hijacking was actually taking place and the alert was lifted. "It was an inadvertent use of a code word," said an unnamed government spokesman. Secret code words? Not as far-fetched as it sounds according to a government official who spoke to AVweb on condition of anonymity. He wouldn't specify the exact process but did confirm that airline pilots in the U.S. are equipped with something more than the 7500 transponder code (which is no secret at all) if a hijacker makes it through airport security and the locked door to the cockpit. Wonder if there's a secret handshake, too.