Hijacking Panic Sends Terrifying Sonic Booms Over England

A series of unfortunate events: a confused helicopter pilot accidentally gives a signal that he's been hijacked. British RAF fighters are scrambled so quickly to shoot the thing down, they go supersonic. Brits down below fear explosions and earthquakes. Boom.

The Aviationist recounts the air force farce, which went down last week over English skies:

At 18.10LT on Thursday April 12 emergency agency telephone switch boards started receiving reports of a large bang or explosion that could be heard all over the southern UK.

It took a couple of hours before the reason for the mysterious bang was made public.

The frightened public had no idea that bang was caused by a group of Typhoon jets on 24/7 watch against terror threats. When the word went out (erroneously) that a helicopter had been hijacked (how does that even happen?), they roared off to intercept. Roared off so fast that they hit Mach 1.2, and cracked a giant sonic boom that literally shook the ground below: "Even the British Geological Survery was contacted to see if the UK had suffered an earthquake."

Of course, this was all for naught. There was no hijacking. The chopper pilot realised the severe bollocking he'd just caused and reversed his hijacking alert, but of course by then it was too late -- he's just lucky he didn't get a missile up his rotor. But, hey, bravo to the RAF -- they'll certainly need that itchy sonic trigger finger when Olympics hysteria hits London. [The Aviationist]


    The pilot didn't cause a "severe bollocking". That would have been what he got when he landed!

    Actually it's easy, to signal a Hijacking. All the planes/helicopters have a "Transponder" which sends a 4 digit number back to the air-traffic control RADAR - this number is manually set by the pilot, usually at the direction of Air-Traffic-Control so that it's easier to tell which blip is which on the RADAR screen.

    Generally an aircraft in th U.K. that is "Just cruzin around" that hasn't been assigned a number by ATC will use the number "7000"

    The code "7500" means the aircraft is suffering "Unlawful Interference" - what a nice euphemism - So if the pilot accidentally set 7500, then the fighters scramble automatically, and generally ATC won't tell the pilot just in case the Hijackers are listening to the radios.

    Why would anyone report a hijacking if they're just going to shoot the plane down?

    On the plus side this gives the air force a valuable after action review.

    Anyone else get the impression this was done intentionally to warn off any potential threats for the upcoming Olympics?

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