Plane's Hijacking Signal Investigated - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/3/05

Plane's Hijacking Signal Investigated

 A Virgin Atlantic flight diverted en route to New York headed to JFK airport after being escorted to an airport in Nova Scotia because its hijack signal had been activated.

Canadian fighter jets scrambled to escort the flight that was originally due to land at JFK International Airport at 12:10 p.m.

Virgin officials said the hijacking signal was a mechanical error and was sent from the plane's transponder. The airline said it was in constant contact with the pilot and the plane's crew, who assured them the cockpit was secure. Air traffic control officials and Heathrow Airport security officials also confirmed it was mechanical error. They are investigating the reason for the mechanical error.

When asked how they knew that the pilot was OK, a Virgin official said, "We have ways of knowing he is OK, which we cannot let know."

Virgin officials said 271 passengers and 16 crew members were on board. Canadian officials had originally planned to have the aircraft land at the Moncton, New Brunswick, airport but the runway was too short to accommodate the A340-600.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic officials said they were "working closely with the authorities and the airline has been advised purely as a precautionary measure to divert to Halifax, Canada.

Passengers were aware of what was going on, Virgin officials said, and were being understanding.

Flight 45 left London's Heathrow at 8:59 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive at JFK at 12:10 p.m.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, airlines were required to install bulletproof doors to the cockpit and to keep them closed to prevent hijackers from taking over planes.

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