Mon, Nov 06, 2006
Brazilian Air Traffic Controllers Put On High Alert
Many flight instructors
will warn you to be very careful when setting your
transponder. They will tell you to be especially mindful to avoid
squawking "7" in the first digit because if you add another "7" or"
6" or "5", this sets off alarm bells, warning whistles, and panic
horns for the controller-- signalling emergency, lost
communications, and hijacking, respectively.
A Brazilian pilot evidently didn't get the
word because he inadvertently set his transponder to 7500 --
the international code for "hijacking in progress".
The Associated Press says the flight crew of the Brazilian
airline Varig, Flight 2330, somehow set the transponder to the code
and controllers gave them very special handling until the plane
landed in the city of Salvador, about 900 miles northeast of Sao
The pilot immediately told air controllers he really hadn't been
hijacked, but the usual protocol is to assume the hijackers know
the procedures. Therefore, once the signal is given, no amount
of denial will keep them from taking it very seriously. The plane
was isolated at the airport until authorities were convinced the
plane really wasn't hijacked.
The controllers may also have been going by the book because of
a furious controversy swirling around the fatal mid-air collision of a
Brazilian jetliner and a business jet which may have been the fault
of an inoperative transponder and flawed air traffic control
direction. Controllers are engaged in a so-called "work-to-rule"
campaign following all regulations to the letter, which slows down
In the meantime, Brazilian authorities are looking into the
non-hijacking incident and wondering how Brazilian aviation is in
the international news for a second time regarding problems with a
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