Korean jet in 9/11 'hijack' scare
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the day of the September terror attacks on New York and Washington last year, it has emerged that on the other side of the United States another 200 lives were also in jeopardy.
Just hours after the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Korean Air Flight 85, originally destined for New York, was preparing for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.
As the plane came into U.S. airspace, the pilot transmitted the letters "H J K" to Korean Airlines operations.
"H J K" in air traffic-speak stands for hijack.
ARINC, the U.S. company that handles civil aviation radio traffic, received the transmission and passed it on to the Federal Aviation Administration.
When U.S. air traffic control asked the pilot to verify a hijacking was under way, the pilot squawked the hijack code on the plane's transponder.
Worried the plane was in hostile hands the North American defense command, NORAD, scrambled jets to investigate and, if necessary, shoot down the Boeing 747 with nearly 200 passengers on board.
The scramble in the sky caused a frenzy on the ground.
Alaska's governor ordered the Valdez pipeline terminal and state office buildings evacuated.
The Korean Air jet was still squawking the hijack code when the military jets made visual contact with the pilots.
Under a military jet escort, the pilots cooperated with orders to land at an airport in the nearby Whitehorse Airport in Canada's Yukon territory.
Still unsure if there was a hijacking in progress, the Royal Canadian mounted police boarded the plane with guns drawn.
But it proved a false alarm.
Korean Air and the FAA say it was a miscommunication between the pilot and an air traffic control center made jumpy by the events earlier that day.
A spokesman for Alaska's governor says "no one was going to take anything like that lightly on September 11."
"It just goes to show you we were all terrorized by what was going on back east."
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