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Mon, Apr 13, 2009

Report: Delta Flight's Hijacking Alert Scrambles Israeli Jets

False Alarm Activated By Mistake... Or Equipment Failure?

A Delta Air Lines Flight enroute from New York to Tel Aviv received an unexpected jet fighter escort Saturday.

The Associated Press said Israeli fighters were scrambled after air traffic controllers detected a hijacking alert the pilots of the airliner had activated by mistake.

The Delta pilots were unable to communicate directly with controllers due to a technical problem, further raising ATC's concern over the well-being of the flight.

Israeli Transportation Ministry spokesman Dani Shenar said that two jet fighters were dispatched, and escorted the plane carrying over 100 passengers to a safe landing at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

Details of the exact circumstances of the situation were sketchy at press time. Early reports seemingly indicated the pilots may have squawked the wrong transponder code -- 7500 is hijacking, 7600 is lost comm. However, at least one Israeli media outlet pointed a finger at a breakdown in the new "Code Positive" security system, now in testing, which requires airliners bound for Israel to establish secure communications before entering Israeli airspace.

"On Saturday one of this system's many potential failings was seen," Boaz Hativa, chairmain of Israel's National Pilot Association, told Haaretz.

The Israeli Transportation Ministry is investigating.

FMI: www.delta.com, www.mot.gov.il/wps/portal/HOME

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