JFK bomb threat proves to be hoax, but leaves one pilot steamed


New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
JFK bomb threat proves to be hoax, but leaves one pilot steamed

A anonymous call about a possible threat disrupted several flights Monday at New York's JFK Airport. The call eventually was determined to be a hoax, but not before leading to a terse exchange between an American Airlines pilot and air traffic control.
The incident began after the Port Authority that runs JFK received a call claiming explosives were onboard several flights bound for JFK. Two of those flights - American Airlines Flight 24 and Finnair Flight 5 - were among those mentioned in the call.
Once the flights landed at JFK, they were sent to an isolated part of the airfield and were immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles.
The exact threat was reported differently by various media outlets. The Associated Press says the caller indicated explosives were onboard while the New York Post and others reported armed hijackers were said to be onboard, possibly hiding somewhere in the planes. Fox 5 News and Newsday report other flights were apparently referenced as well.
Regardless, the Post cites an anonymous source in writing that a "multi-agency mobilization" was organized to check out the planes. No threats were substantiated, and authorities labeled the call an apparent hoax.
But that wasn't before air traffic control engaged in a testy exchange with an AA pilot, who demanded to know why his plane was surrounded by emergency vehicles in the airport's quarantine area.
The pilot requests information from an air traffic controller for information, who suggests the pilot call AA's control center for information.
"Negative, they're not answering. What do you have?" the pilot responds, according to audio recordings quoted by NBC New York.
The exchange continued:
Controller: "I don't have a thing at this moment, except that you and the aircraft beside you need to wait in that area."
Pilot: "OK, we're surrounded by emergency vehicles. There's a reason for this. Somebody's got to give us the reason, or we're going to evacuate the aircraft. You got 60 seconds."
NBC New York says , "finally," the controller responded: "We have the information. Can you possibly call?"
That didn't appear to placate the pilot, who responded: "Negative. I would demand the information right now over a frequency."
CBS New York says "authorities then filled him in," but didn't specify on whose terms.​


Lycra Man
If my aircraft is being surrounded by emergency vehicles and I am not allowed to move it you damn well better tell me why. You have got to keep the crew in the loop, passengers don't need to know that for obvious reasons. We also don't know how long the aircraft were sitting but if it is going on an hour or more I don't blame him for threatening to evacuate if they didn't fill him in... Not that I actually would have but still.


Well-Known Member
I'm with the captain, if I'm surrounded by emergency vehicles and nobody will tell me why then I have to assume the worst. With a possible bomb on board I'm suprised they didn't evacuate.


Joe Conventional
I see the captain's perspective. But on the other hand I see the controllers hesitance to broadcast that over the frequency that is broadcast on the internet for free (not that I'm against that). Kind of a tough situation for both sides.


New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
I'm surprised that there was no ACARS, information from local ops or even the dispatcher.


Antisocial Monster
I'm surprised that there was no ACARS, information from local ops or even the dispatcher.
This has all been cut in the bankruptcy. I'm sure you'll understand the need for the company to save money in these pressing times.


Well-Known Member
Why wouldn't they evacuate, or at least deboard, the plane? It seems really stupid that at the threat of a bomb you are going to keep them on the possibly exploding plane? And I'm sure if you asked you would get a retarded answer like "it's for the passengers' own safety" but I think just about anything is safer than being on a fueled airplane with a bomb.

Not that every bomb threat should lead to the slides being deployed, but I see no possible reason why not to tell the crew and get the pax off as quickly as possible.


Staff member
If you deplane the people, you risk having the alleged "terrorist" or possible "bomb" departing the ac with the pax. The decision to evacuate /deplane or not is made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances of the specific event.


Well-Known Member
"American 24, Port Authority police strongly encourage you remain as is and do not evacuate the passengers. Port Authority expects all this to be resolved by 7700z." Done and done.


Well-Known Member
Good call but at the end I would've called ATC if you have a phone available, I have to assume they are more organized than we are and even we have the tower # in our 10-7's.


Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
I had a curiously dissenting voice in my head.

Let's say that the safety of the passengers is dependent on not telling the pilot what is going on via open frequency. As in, the bomb threat explicitly states that any attempt to evacuate will result in detonation.

Since you don't want to broadcast that on open frequency, wouldn't the Captain be wise to follow the lead of the controller and make the phone call rather than exert his PIC authority in ignorance?

Seems like the tower could say, "Look. We get it, but we really, really, REALLY need you to call in, on the phone, right now." As CA and PIC, wouldn't the guy realize something was out of whack and make the call?

EDIT: I know that gaming the scenario is an academic exercise. The point is that PIC authority is obviously a huge responsibility. Exercising it is important, but in mitigating circumstances, if you suspect that grave a threat, simply saying, "I'm evacuating in 60 seconds" may not be the wisest course of action absent actionable data.


Well-Known Member
EDIT:... if you suspect that grave a threat, simply saying, "I'm evacuating in 60 seconds" may not be the wisest course of action absent actionable data.
Agreed, I thought about that scenario as well, but I still would have to support the Capt. decision of having ATC inform of the situation.