Last Tuesday, a radio incident on a JetBlue flight resulted in a security scare at JFK. The aircraft, which was en route to Los Angeles, lost contact with air traffic control right before takeoff. The pilot then inadvertently triggered a hijack alert with the plane’s transponder, indicating an emergency.
The response was immediate. Police and FBI responded, surrounding and boarding the plane, yet they found no threat. Passengers were transferred to a new plane after law enforcement officers left. Lenis Rodrigues, a spokesperson for Port Authority, told the New York Daily News that, “the aircraft was inspected and cleared with no security threat.”
"There was a false alarm sent to tower as a result of a radio communications failure. Aircraft was inspected and cleared with no security threat," a Port Authority spokesperson said.
“While communication was reestablished via alternate channels, authorities responded out of an abundance of caution,” JetBlue said in a statement. “The aircraft was cleared and returned to the gate for inspection.”
“JetBlue 1623, an Airbus A320, experienced a radio equipment problem while taxiing for departure at John F. Kennedy International Airport tonight at 8 p.m.,” explained the FAA. “The crew requested to return to the ramp. The FAA will investigate.”
FAA STATEMENT: @JetBlue 1623, an Airbus A320 aircraft experienced a radio problem while taxiing for departure at @JFKairport at about 8 pm today. The crew asked to return to the terminal. The #FAA will investigate.— The FAA (@FAANews) June 27, 2018
Passengers were understandably concerned by the incident. Blogger Alexa Curtis, tweeted, “Woah. My worst nightmare. @Delta JFK to LAX right now, honestly thought we were going to die. I AM ALIVE THANK, GOSH I MEDITATE U GUYS what is going on.”
After law enforcement agents boarded the plane, Curtis, tweeted, “I hate guns. They were pointing them, like, at us. It was traumatizing. People were, like, crying. Everyone’s texting their family, and we were on the ground, so usually, this would happen in the air if it was gonna happen. People were ready to die.”
Though it’s been 17 years since airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, many people, especially in New York, still have vivid memories of the terrorist attack. Passengers’ fears are intensified by the measures put in place after 9/11. According to Professor Robert Bor, a psychologist, pilot and co-author of Overcome Your Fear of Flying, the counter-measures at airports that aim to protect us from terrorism, also remind us of the dangers lurking out there.
Dan Gardner, the author of Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, says that after 9/11, the fear of flying was so great that a major decline was recorded in air travel, which lead to many people choosing to drive rather than fly. Unfortunately, driving is much more dangerous than air travel.
“The mass shift from air travel to the roads raised millions of people’s risk of injury and death, with predictable results. By one estimate, it killed 1,500 people. On their death certificates, it says they were killed by car crashes. But, really, the ultimate cause of death was misperceived risk,” Gardner said.