Pilot Goofs, Sets Off Signal for Hijacking
Pilot error was blamed for a false report of a hijacking this morning aboard a West Air flight to Burbank that was preparing for takeoff from Fresno Air Terminal, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.
“A West Air flight was taxiing for takeoff, and the pilot made a maneuver and a transmission that is a coded signal for a possible hijacking. We had to proceed as though it was,” said John Manuszak, FAA supervisor on duty when the report came in at 9:30 a.m.
The aircraft was taxiing with its flaps down when they should have been in the raised position, police and airport officials said.
Airport security alerted the FBI and a Fresno police special weapons and tactics team, and the tower ordered the pilot to move from the runway to a taxiway and stop.
Police, mechanics and others approached the twin-engine turboprop from the rear.
“Everybody deplaned with their hands up,” Manuszak said. Ground crews determined at 10:10 a.m. that the hijack report “was inadvertent, a mistake by the pilot.”