WASHINGTON — Canadian law enforcement officials took charge of a passenger jet that was escorted by fighter jets to Halifax International Airport on Friday after it sent out a false hijacking alarm en route from London to New York.
The airliner landed safely at 11 a.m. ET and was met by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Border Service Agency, according to Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Katie Montgomery.
The airline issued a statement saying it is investigating the technical reason for the false alarm and that passengers have been informed of developments.
The jetliner, an Airbus A340-600, left London Heathrow Airport at 3:59 a.m. ET as Flight 45 with 273 passengers and 16 crew, the airline said.
“The transponder sent out a false alert,” said Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman Brooke Lawer.
Lawer said the airline was in contact with the captain and the flight crew, who said the flight deck door was locked and secured.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, airlines were required to install bulletproof doors to the cockpit and to keep them closed to prevent hijackers from taking over planes.
The flight was intercepted in Canadian airspace by two CF-18s out of Bagotville, Quebec, said Maj. Douglas Martin, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Greg Martin said transponders malfunction rarely.
“It does happen,” Martin said.
Virgin Atlantic said it still plans to get the aircraft and its passengers to John F. Kennedy International Airport as soon as possible.
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