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Korean Air Lines Flight 85

Flight 85 had the same color scheme as this aircraft
Occurrence summary
Date September 11, 2001
Site Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Passengers 200-215
Injuries 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors All
Aircraft type Boeing 747-4B5
Operator Korean Air Lines
Flight origin Gimpo International Airport, Seoul, Korea
Stopover Anchorage International Airport
Anchorage, Alaska
United States
Destination John F. Kennedy International Airport[1]

Korean Air Lines Flight 85 was a Korean Air Lines flight that was en route to Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska when the September 11 attacks occurred 3,370 miles away in New York City and Washington D.C.

Due to a number of factors, the plane was considered by authorities to be a potential hijacked aircraft and was authorized by American officials and the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to be shot down.[2] The pilots of the civil airliner cooperated and the 747 was forced by American F-15 military jets to land in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

Contents

Incident

After the September 11 attacks, a call went out for all planes to return to their airports of origin (or if they did not have enough fuel, to land in Canadian territory). Discussing the day's events with the Korean Air office, the pilot of Flight 85 included the letters "HJK" (the code for "hijacked") in an airline text message. [1] When the pilot sent his message, the text messaging service company, Aeronautical Radio, Incorporated (ARINC) noticed the "HJK" code.[1] ARINC officials, worried that the Korean pilots might be sending a coded message for help, notified North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Taking no chances, NORAD scrambled two F-15 jets from Elmendorf Air Force Base to intercept the 747, with Alaska air traffic control (ATC) asking the pilots coded questions. Civil airline pilots are trained to answer these questions in a coded way if hijacked.

The Korean pilots, instead of reassuring ATC, declared themselves hijacked by changing their transponder signal to the four-digit universal code for hijack, 7500.[3] Worried that a possible hijacked plane might strike a target in Alaska, Senator Ted Stevens ordered the evacuation of large hotels and government buildings in Anchorage. At nearby Valdez, (also in Alaska), the U.S. Coast Guard ordered all tankers filling up with oil to head out to sea. Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, who was in charge of the NORAD planes that scrambled to shadow Flight 85, told reporters in 2001 that he was prepared to order the Korean plane to be shot down before it could attack a target in Alaska.[1]

With NORAD telling Anchorage ATC that it would shoot down the airliner if it came near any potential targets, these controllers informed Flight 85 to avoid all population centers and head out of the country to Whitehorse, Canada. NORAD promptly called Canadian authorities seeking the go-ahead to shoot the plane down over Canadian soil:

"I said, 'Yes, if you think they are terrorists, you call me again but be ready to shoot them down.' So I authorized it in principle, It's kind of scary that... [there is] this plane with hundreds of people and you have to call a decision like that.... But you prepare yourself for that. I thought about it -- you know that you will have to make decisions at times that will [be] upsetting you for the rest of your life".
2001 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien[2]

90 minutes after the Korean pilots changed their transponder signal to the 7500 hijacked code, the plane landed safely in Whitehorse, Canada. Canadian officials evacuated all schools and large buildings before the plane landed.[4] On the tarmac, Flight 85 was greeted by armed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who, after interrogating the pilots, learned the whole ordeal was caused by a translation error.[4]

Flight 85 timeline

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September 11, 2001

Operation Yellow Ribbon

Operation Yellow Ribbon was the operation that Transport Canada created to handle the diversion of civilian airline flights following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The operation started after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all aircraft across the United States and re-routed incoming international flights to airports in Canada. During the operation, departing aircraft, with the exception of police, military, and humanitarian flights were canceled, marking the first time that Canada shut down its airspace. As a result of Operation Yellow Ribbon, 255 aircraft were diverted to 15 different airports across the country.

References

  1. ^ a b c d Alan Levin (2002-08-12). "Korean Air jet may have narrowly missed disaster" (HTML). USA TODAY. http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2002-08-12-koreanair_x.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-19.  
  2. ^ a b SHAWN MCCARTHY OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF (September 12, 2002). "PM says U.S. attitude helped fuel Sept. 11" (HTML). Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. http://www.ctv.ca/special/sept11/hubs/canadian/mccarthy01.html. Retrieved 2009-03-19.  
  3. ^ a b Patty Davis (August 14, 2002). "Korean jet in 9/11 'hijack' scare" (HTML). CNN News. http://edition.cnn.com/2002/US/08/14/alaska.sept11/. Retrieved 2009-03-19.  
  4. ^ a b "Attack on the U.S.A.: Canadian Service of Remembrance" (Documentary). CBC News. 2002. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0373693. Retrieved 2009-03-19.  
  5. ^ "Flight Path Study - American Airlines Flight 11" (pdf). National Transportation Safety Board. 2002-02-19. http://www.ntsb.gov/info/Flight_%20Path_%20Study_AA11.pdf.  
  6. ^ "Flight Path Study - United Airlines Flight 175" (pdf). National Transportation Safety Board. 2002-02-19. http://www.ntsb.gov/info/Flight_%20Path%20_Study_UA175.pdf.  
  7. ^ "Flight Path Study - American Airlines Flight 77" (pdf). National Transportation Safety Board. 2002-02-19. http://www.ntsb.gov/info/Flight_%20Path_%20Study_AA77.pdf.  
  8. ^ "The Attack Looms". 9/11 Commission Report. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. 2004. http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch7.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  

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