Passengers aboard JetBlue Flight 1623 from New York’s JFK airport to Los Angeles had their plane surrounded by police and emergency vehicles, and stormed by FBI agents, on the tarmac on Tuesday evening. They were ordered to put their hands up and drop their cellphones as FBI agents and other law enforcement went row by row looking for a security threat. They didn’t find one. Turns out a faulty radio on the JetBlue plane had set off a hijacking alert.
The JetBlue plane was on the taxiway at the airport waiting to take off when it “experienced a radio problem,” the FAA said in a statement. The equipment issue led to radio silence between the cockpit and air traffic control. After about five minutes passed, the plane sent out a hijack code notifying air traffic control that there was a security threat onboard, the New York Daily News reported. When controllers couldn’t make contact with the pilot (due to the faulty radio), the airport instantly activated its hijacking response system, surrounding the plane and terrifying the confused passengers.
— Alexa Curtis (@Alexa_Curtis) June 27, 2018
According to a passenger who spoke to CNN, those on board the plane were not told about the cause of the incident. In a statement, JetBlue said that “while communication was reestablished via alternate channels, authorities responded out of an abundance of caution.”
Talking to the Daily News, a JetBlue spokeswoman said she did not know what had caused the radio failure. While the situation is far from ideal for anyone involved, a failed radio is preferable to a successful hijacking any day.
I’ve never been told to put my hands up on any plane, but this happened on our @JetBlue plane back to LAX!! Super scary moment as the swat-like team came down the aisle, guns out. #jetblue pic.twitter.com/yHjjpdsuSb
— Daniel Cruz (@DanielRoyCruz) June 27, 2018