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2002-09-02 16:47:53

Bahamasair In Terrorist Alarm

The Bahama Journal

A Bahamasair aircraft that was flying from Canada to Raleigh- Durham, N.C. was ordered to land in Long Island, NY Thursday afternoon after federal authorities became concerned that terrorist activity may have been underway.

Joe Valiquette, an FBI spokesman, told the Bahama Journal Friday morning that there was a miscommunication between the cockpit and the air traffic controllers in Boston.

According to U.S. press reports, the pilots "refused to reassure the controllers and arrogantly insisted they knew what they were doing."

Mr. Valiquette said the pilots were asked to identify their aircraft. They reportedly responded with call letters that did not match the plane's electronic responder signal, used to identify the aircraft.

The plane was forced to land at Islip MacArthur Airport and was met by officials from the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration.

According to Mr. Valiquette, air traffic controllers decided to ask for military assistance after the miscommunication occurred.

But the plane had already landed when to Air National Guard F-16 Falcons, on patrol over the Northeastern United States, responded.

Bahamasair officials were on Friday tight-lipped about the incident, but the pilots - who did not give their names - told U.S. reporters that the confusion arose when "B" in the plane's call numbers was misidentified as a "V." The plane's call number is CB 8FN.

Mr. Valiquette said two pilots were on Flight 999 but no passengers were onboard.

"We interviewed them and determined that there was no terrorist or criminal overtones to the matter," he said.

Captain Charles Beneby, Bahamasair's Chief Operating Officer, said that the airline was "in the midst of an investigation" and would release a statement on the incident in "short order."

When asked about reports that the pilots acted arrogantly, Mr. Beneby said he did not know that to be the case.

"We just want to get the relevant facts in," he said.

The Bahamasair aircraft involved in the incident arrive at the Nassau International Airport Friday morning. 

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