Friday, October 23, 2009
F-16s were "prepared" to shoot down Northwest Airlines Flight
Armed F-16s from the Wisconsin Air National Guard were on the runway and "prepared" to shoot down the errant Northwest flight if the order had come, a NORAD spokesperson, Mike Kucharek told ABCNews.com.
Air traffic controllers feared Northwest Flight 188, from San Diego to Minneapolis, might have been hijacked after its pilots failed to respond to radio transmissions for more than an hour. NORAD ordered at least two planes scrambled at the guard facility in Madison, Wisconsin.
The NORAD spokesman said the F-16s, normally armed with 500 rounds of air cannon bullets and six air-to-air missiles, were on the runway when the alert was canceled once the pilots finally made contact with FAA controllers.
Air traffic controllers reported the pilots initially failed to respond to commands as it passed from the air space controlled by the FAA Denver Center into the area controlled by the Minneapolis Center.
The concern grew as the pilots ignored a command from the Minneapolis approach controllers to begin a descent for landing.
The National Counterterrorism Center in Washington was notified, and authorities began to scrutinize the passenger list, according to Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan of ABC News.
Once contact was re-established, after an hour and 18 minutes of silence, the controllers ordered the pilots to carry out a series of zigzag maneuvers in order to prove "the pilots had command and control of the craft," according to people briefed on the incident.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 10:49 AM