NEW YORK (CBSMiami) – Passengers on a JetBlue flight say they were terrified when armed officers suddenly stormed their plane in New York.READ MORE: 'Primary Goal Is Active Shooter Response': Miami-Dade Police Priority Response Team Trains For Whatever Comes Its Way
The jet’s crew was preparing to take off for Los Angeles when an equipment failure caused a loss of communication with the tower. Then a false alarm triggered the massive police response.
Dozens of emergency vehicles surrounded JetBlue flight 1623 at New York’s JFK airport after air traffic control lost all contact with the pilots.
“We all saw these flashing lights and everyone on the plane just noticed at once,” said Alexa Curtis.
She said a heavily armed police entered the cabin and ordered passengers to put their hands in the air.READ MORE: Rojas Homers And Gets 3 Hits As Marlins Beat Nationals 5-1
“I thought I was gonna die, like how they were pointing the guns, they were pointing them like at us, she said. “People were like crying. Everyone’s texting their family and we’re on the ground and usually this would be in the air if something is happening and people were ready to like, die.”
In a statement, JetBlue said the Airbus a321 “experienced a radio issue impacting the crew’s ability to communicate and a false alarm was sent to JFK tower. while communication was reestablished via alternative channels, authorities responded out of an abundance of caution.”
In an emergency, the plane’s transponder can be used to signal the tower. FAA officials say the false alarm was triggered by the pilots mistakenly entering the four digit “squawk” code for hijack (7,500) instead of the code which signals radio failure 7,600).
“As a pilot, I would have explained to ’em exactly what happened. If it was my mistake, I would apologize and say folks I screwed up. We’re only human, we all make mistakes,” said former airline Captain Ross Aimer.MORE NEWS: Companies Ask For Rate Hikes In Virtual Hearings With Florida’s Office Of Insurance Regulation
Police found no security issue on board and gave the all clear. The plane returned to the gate for a while as a new crew was assigned and it did eventually get to Los Angeles after about a four-hour delay.