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10-2-6. HIJACKED AIRCRAFT

When you observe a Mode 3/A Code 7500, do the following:

NOTE -
1. Military facilities will notify the appropriate FAA ARTCC, or the host nation agency responsible for en route control, of any indication that an aircraft is being hijacked. They will also provide full cooperation with the civil agencies in the control of such aircraft.

2. En route: During narrowband radar operations, Code 7500 causes HIJK to blink in the data block.

NOTE -
Only nondiscrete CODE 7500 will be decoded as the hijack code.

a. Acknowledge and confirm receipt of Code 7500 by asking the pilot to verify it. If the aircraft is not being subjected to unlawful interference, the pilot should respond to the query by broadcasting in the clear that he is not being subjected to unlawful interference. If the reply is in the affirmative or if no reply is received, do not question the pilot further but be responsive to the aircraft requests.

PHRASEOLOGY -
(Identification) (name of facility) VERIFY SQUAWKING 7500.

NOTE -
Code 7500 is only assigned upon notification from the pilot that his aircraft is being subjected to unlawful interference. Therefore, pilots have been requested to refuse the assignment of Code 7500 in any other situation and to inform the controller accordingly.

b. Notify supervisory personnel of the situation.

c. Flight follow aircraft and use normal handoff procedures without requiring transmissions or responses by aircraft unless communications have been established by the aircraft.

d. If aircraft are dispatched to escort the hijacked aircraft, provide all possible assistance to the escort aircraft to aid in placing them in a position behind the hijacked aircraft.

NOTE -
Escort procedures are contained in FAAO 7610.4, Chapter 7.

e. To the extent possible, afford the same control service to the aircraft operating VFR observed on the hijack code.

REFERENCE -

10-2-6. HIJACKED AIRCRAFT

When you observe a Mode 3/A Code 7500, do the following:

NOTE -
1. Military facilities will notify the appropriate FAA ARTCC, or the host nation agency responsible for en route control, of any indication that an aircraft is being hijacked. They will also provide full cooperation with the civil agencies in the control of such aircraft.

2. En route: During narrowband radar operations, Code 7500 causes HIJK to blink in the data block.

NOTE -
Only nondiscrete CODE 7500 will be decoded as the hijack code.

a. Acknowledge and confirm receipt of Code 7500 by asking the pilot to verify it. If the aircraft is not being subjected to unlawful interference, the pilot should respond to the query by broadcasting in the clear that he is not being subjected to unlawful interference. If the reply is in the affirmative or if no reply is received, do not question the pilot further but be responsive to the aircraft requests.

PHRASEOLOGY -
(Identification) (name of facility) VERIFY SQUAWKING 7500.

NOTE -
Code 7500 is only assigned upon notification from the pilot that his aircraft is being subjected to unlawful interference. Therefore, pilots have been requested to refuse the assignment of Code 7500 in any other situation and to inform the controller accordingly.

b. Notify supervisory personnel of the situation.

c. Flight follow aircraft and use normal handoff procedures without requiring transmissions or responses by aircraft unless communications have been established by the aircraft.

d. If aircraft are dispatched to escort the hijacked aircraft, provide all possible assistance to the escort aircraft to aid in placing them in a position behind the hijacked aircraft.

NOTE -
Escort procedures are contained in FAAO 7610.4, Chapter 7.

e. To the extent possible, afford the same control service to the aircraft operating VFR observed on the hijack code.

REFERENCE -
Another source:

CNN: What are the cockpit procedures if you are being hijacked? Is there any way to send a secret signal to air traffic controllers?

BARR: Yes there are. There are certain phrases that the pilots are trained to use that will indicate to the air traffic controllers that a hijack is in progress Governments like to keep these procedures confidential so as not to help hijackers.

 

 

Chapter 7. ESCORT OF HIJACKED AIRCRAFT

Section 1. GENERAL

7-1-1. PURPOSE

The FAA hijack coordinator (the Director or his designate of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security) on duty at Washington headquarters will request the military to provide an escort aircraft for a confirmed hijacked aircraft to:

a. Assure positive flight following.

b. Report unusual observances.

c. Aid search and rescue in the event of an emergency.

7-1-2. REQUESTS FOR SERVICE

The escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC).  Normally, NORAD escort aircraft will take the required action.  However, for the purpose of these procedures, the term "escort aircraft" applies to any military aircraft assigned to the escort mission.  When the military can provide escort aircraft, the NMCC will advise the FAA hijack coordinator the identification and location of the squadron tasked to provide escort aircraft.  NMCC will then authorize direct coordination between FAA and the designated military unit.  When a NORAD resource is tasked, FAA will coordinate through the appropriate SOCC/ROCC.

7-1-3. HANDLING PRIORITY

When the situation requires an expedited departure of the escort aircraft, the aircraft shall be afforded priority consideration over other departing aircraft.

7-1-4. CONTROL RESPONSIBILITIES FOR U.S. AIRSPACE

a. When hijacked aircraft is within FAA radar coverage, escort aircraft shall be controlled by the appropriate FAA facility.

b. When a hijacked aircraft is not within FAA radar coverage but within military radar coverage, escort aircraft may be controlled by the military for the escort phase only.

c. When escort aircraft are under military control, separation between the escort aircraft/hijacked aircraft and other IFR traffic is the responsibility of the FAA.  Separation shall be provided through the application of appropriate altitude reservations as required.

d. When escort aircraft is under FAA control, standard air traffic control separation shall be applied.  In no case shall any clearance or instruction to the aircraft compromise ATC standards.

e. When tanker aircraft are employed, the designated tankers and escort aircraft shall be under FAA control, and appropriate aerial refueling procedures shall apply.

7-1-5. CONTROL RESPONSIBILITIES FOR CANADIAN AIRSPACE

Escort aircraft entering Canadian airspace from the U.S. shall be transferred to NORAD control
in accordance with FAA/NORAD procedures prior to the aircraft entering Canadian airspace.  Escort aircraft entering U.S. airspace from Canada will be transferred from NORAD control in the same manner when transfer of control is effected.   When the hijacked aircraft is not within the coverage of the NORAD surveillance system in Canada, the escort mission will be discontinued.

7-1-6. AIR/GROUND COMMUNICATIONS SECURITY

Except when specifically directed otherwise by FAA headquarters, every precaution shall be taken to prevent the hijacker/s from gaining knowledge that an escort is being conducted.  When communicating with escort aircraft, ensure that transmissions are made on a different frequency from the one being used to communicate with the hijacked aircraft and are not simultaneously broadcast on a frequency which can be overheard by the hijacked aircraft.

7-1-7. WEATHER/FLIGHT SAFETY LIMITATIONS

If weather conditions or other flight safety factors make the escort mission impractical, the mission shall be terminated by the controller or the pilot, and the FAA headquarters hijack coordinator shall be advised immediately.  The pilot of the escort aircraft will keep the controller advised of adverse weather or any other hazardous conditions.  The pilot will immediately terminate the mission if radio contact with the control facility is lost, maintaining the last assigned altitude and/or radio failure procedures unless the pilot has received specific instructions to the contrary.

 

 

 

Chapter 7. ESCORT OF HIJACKED AIRCRAFT

Section 1. GENERAL
7-1-1. Purpose 7-1-5. Control Responsibilities for Canadian Airspace
7-1-2. Requests for Service 7-1-6. Air/Ground Communications Security
7-1-3. Handling Priority 7-1-7. Weather/Flight Safety Limitations
7-1-4. Control Responsibilities for U.S. Airspace

 

Section 2. ESCORT PROCEDURES
7-2-1. Facility Notification 7-2-5. Airport Limitations
7-2-2. Pilot Notification 7-2-6. Responsibilities Prior to Join-Up
7-2-3. Vectors 7-2-7. Positioning Instructions
7-2-4. Radar Requirements 7-2-8. Termination Heading

 

Section 3. REPLACEMENT/RECOVERY OF ESCORT AIRCRAFT
7-3-1. Replacement Responsibilities 7-3-3. Return-to-Base
7-3-2. Recovery Responsibilities 7-3-4. Refueling Operations

 

Section 4. FORWARDING INFORMATION
7-4-1. FAA Headquarters Requirements
7-4-2. Position Reports Within NORAD Radar Coverage
7-4-3. Position Reports Outside NORAD Radar Coverage

 

Section 5. MISSION TERMINATION
7-5-1. Termination Authority
7-5-2. Overflight Clearance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day the FAA Stopped the World
TIME's aviation correspondent Sally Donnelly dissects what happened in the air that fateful day 

Just after nine a.m. EST, a United flight in the Western United States started hearing some odd back and forth on the radio. The pilots heard the controllers say something about a hijacking. A pilot from another plane asked ATC, "What company?", meaning what airline was involved. "Standby" came the response from ATC. Then a few seconds of suspense — and fear. United is the only airline in the U.S. that pipes the cockpit's radio transmissions through to its inflight audio system via channel nine. The flight attendants on the United plane called through the inflight phone into the cockpit to tell the pilot that a passenger had been listening on channel 9 and wanted to know what was going on.

It became horrifyingly clear moments later: controller's voices crackling into airplane cockpits across the United States were calm but the message was disturbing and unprecedented. "Every airplane listening to this frequency needs to contact your company." With those eleven words, the world's most complex — and safe — air traffic system was brought to its knees.

Thousands of pilots rapidly began dialing up the operation centers of their airlines via the airborne communication systems that allow crew to contact the ground with e-mail or voice systems. Pilots were informed that there had been terrorist attacks, were instructed to deny all access to the cockpit and get the plane down as quickly as possible. In one cockpit, a pilot checked that the door was locked. Then he made sure that the 'crash axe' that is carried in all cockpits was in place.

Routine no more

At the FAA's national command center in Herndon, Virginia, some 30 miles from Washington, the usually predictable patterns on the small, 21 inch screens, as well as the huge 10 foot screen that display the nation's air traffic control system in action would have started to go awry. By several minutes after nine, the two airline representatives that sit alongside their FAA colleagues at the Center would have heard about the terrible call that dispatchers at the American Airlines operation center near Dallas Ft Worth airport had fielded: a flight attendant on board flight 11 had called the center, via an emergency phone line, and said that a passenger was stabbing people on board. It is not clear how much information she transmitted to her shocked coworkers. Staffers in the AA op center, some veterans of the military, still others trained in disaster response, were stunned by news of the call.

 

The procedures for hijacking (or "unlawful interference" as it's officially called) are standardized. Commercial pilots would follow these procedures as a matter of routine unless prevented by incapacitation or some other circumstances.

If intruders interfere with a flight crew, the routine calls for one of the pilots to select a preset code on the aircraft's transponder. This activates an alarm on the air traffic controller's radar screen, pointing out the aircraft on the display. If at that stage the controller isn't sure the aircraft is being hijacked -- a pilot could transmit the code by accident, for example, while changing to or from an assigned transponder frequency -- the controller will transmit a standard message. He or she will say: "You were assigned code such-and-such; confirm you're squawking (the preset code)." If the pilot transmits "yes," the controller will alert the ATC system.

If after squawking the code a pilot changes it to an emergency code or uses a radio transmission to ATC that includes preset word codes," it tells controllers that the situation is desperate and the skipper is requesting armed intervention.

This, at least, is what the regulations say. What "armed intervention" might mean in practice has, until now, been anybody's guess. A decision to send fighter planes to shoot down a domestic airliner filled with vacationers or business travelers wouldn't be easy. Until Tuesday, such a scenario would have belonged to a B-grade Hollywood movie.