FAA Says Handheld Used In Fake Crash Call

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The FAA now believes a radio call from someone who claimed to be a passenger aboard a small plane that (he alleged) impacted mountains near Stanford University actually originated from a handheld transceiver in a downtown neighborhood, according to a local ABC affiliate. ABC7 of San Francisco says their source heard a recording of the 30-minute call between the alleged passenger and controllers. That call last Saturday initiated a three-county-wide search and rescue mission that ultimately involved "nine different law enforcement, fire and rescue agencies," and included a request for assistance from the Civil Air Patrol. It also, as a matter of course, delayed or interrupted some routine radio communications. ABC7's source said the caller identified himself as Mike Henderson and stated he had a broken leg and his pilot was unconscious. The man said the two had departed South County Airport for a tour of the Bay Area and had crashed in the mountains. The search was called off midday, Sunday, and the FAA has isolated the origin of the call to downtown Los Altos.

The FAA believes the caller used a handheld transceiver. The ABC news story included comment from aviation consultant Ron Wilson. Wilson said the event should raise concerns that a criminal "could actually communicate with the pilot of an aircraft, say on approach to San Francisco, if they knew the frequency and it's not hard to find out, and give the pilot instructions that could cause that pilot to make a turn in front of another airplane, for instance." First responders remain on standby, just in case further evidence presents itself of a real emergency, while others begin tallying the cost of the search in time and resources.