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Flight from Charlotte Gets Military Escort

Aired August 27, 2002 - 11:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We have got more on our breaking news this morning. Military jets escorted a U.S. Airways flight to Baltimore's BWI airport this morning.
And CNN's Kathleen Koch is following this developing story in our Washington bureau -- Kathleen, have you heard more about exactly what happened?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have, Carol. The FBI is speaking out now, and a spokesman in Baltimore, Barry Maddox (ph) with the FBI is saying that what happened is, at some point after this plane, U.S. Airways Flight 1814 departed from Charlotte, North Carolina at 8:30 this morning. The flight crew aboard there mistakenly entered a code that indicated that there was some sort of problem, some sort of threat on board the aircraft. Now the FBI spokesman says that the crew then immediately radioed the ground, radioed airline control that they had made a mistake, but out of an abundance of precaution, authorities nonetheless decided to scramble fighter jets. They escorted this plane all the way to the ground, to its original destination, which was Baltimore-Washington International Airport. There were 45 people on board. They saw these jets outside the windows, so they will obviously have quite a story to tell once they all get on the ground. They were taken off the plane about 15 minutes ago, and the plane has taxied now back up to the gate. But what we are being told by the FAA was that there was a sort of miscommunication between the pilot and the ground, and that they simply did not want to take any chances. So, the FBI after the plane was on the ground, law enforcement authorities made it land in a very remote corner of that airport to be very cautious. They surrounded the plane, they boarded it, they questioned the pilot, and we are being told at this point that they determined that there was no actual threat, that it was simply a mistake -- Carol.

LIN: Kathleen, at one point the crew, actually, had radioed or tried to communicate that it was a mistake, they entered the wrong code and that everything was fine, but still -- and as you are saying, as a precaution, air traffic control forced them to land, and forced this intercept. Is that standard operating procedure? I mean, isn't there or couldn't there be a code to say all clear, everything is OK, to try to avoid this?

KOCH: That is what you would think, Carol, but perhaps the length of this flight was such -- it was a relatively short flight, again, from North Carolina to Baltimore, that they believed that the safest thing to do you know, with that short period of time that they had allotted was to simply -- just as a precaution, to go ahead and follow this aircraft to the ground, to scramble the agents who were there in Baltimore, and have them there just to check the situation out, just to take absolutely no chances.

Obviously, again, as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, they are very cautious, very cautious, in case anyone might try to target the U.S. aviation system again.

LIN: Right. Well, it certainly shows that the system is working that they put in place after 9/11, so that is reassuring, even though a lot of people are late for their meetings this morning.

Thank you very much, Kathleen Koch reporting live from Washington.

KOCH: You bet.

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