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 and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at or call 907-350-2058.