Air Traffic Controller Talks About Korean Airliner Incident on 9-11

A decade after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, APRN has uncovered new information regarding the events that caused a Korean 747 en route to New York and scheduled to stop in Anchorage for fuel, to be diverted from Anchorage to Whitehorse Canada. NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is a joint Alaskan/Canadian military partnership had control of the airways and had requested that Canada allow international flights to be diverted to their airports. As in so many things that day, there was confusion, anxiety and some fear that the Korean jet may have hijackers on board. The plane began squawking 7500 – a code meaning it had been hijacked. The military says it was a miscommunication between the pilot and air traffic control. But the air traffic controller who dealt with the plane as it approached Anchorage says it was a direct command to the pilot. Retired Air Traffic controller Rick Wilder says he is still haunted by the incident because so many lives were at stake. He says when he first received the order to tell the pilot to squawk 7500 he refused.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. 

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