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JetBlue radio glitch sets off hijacking fear at JFK

Signage at JFK Airport in Queens, New York on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News/TNS)

A communications failure sparked a hijacking scare on a JetBlue flight at JFK Airport on Tuesday, setting off a frenzy from first responders over what turned out to be a false alarm.

JetBlue Flight 1623, an Airbus 320 bound for Los Angeles, lost contact with the air traffic control tower while taxiing for takeoff at about 8 p.m. After five minutes passed, the pilot entered a hijack alert by mistake, sending in a Port Authority Police Emergency Services unit to board the plane, sources said.

At one point, the plane’s pilot held up a piece of paper with his cell phone number written on it, so police could call him and find out what happened, sources said.

Passengers on the plane tweeted that “heavy armed” police boarded the plane to investigate. The passengers disembarked the plane and were transferred to another flight, sources said.

“There was a false alarm sent to tower as a result of a radio communications failure,” Port Authority spokeswoman Lenis Rodrigues said Tuesday night. “(The) aircraft was inspected and cleared with no security threat.”

The tower reestablished radio contact with the plane’s crew by 8:15 p.m., sources said.

JetBlue spokeswoman Paula Acevedo couldn’t say Tuesday night what caused the communications problem.

“Shortly before departure, Flight 1623 from New York JFK to Los Angeles experienced a radio issue impacting the crew’s ability to communicate and a false alarm was sent to JFK tower,” she said in a written statement. “While communication was reestablished via alternate channels, authorities responded in an abundance of caution. The aircraft was cleared and returned to the gate for inspection.”


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