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Officials Mistakenly Believed Hijacking Was Under Way

Aired August 27, 2002 - 10:43   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Leon, we have got more on that U.S. Airways flight landing at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. There, you are looking at a live picture of a plane that was suspected of being hijacked.
The camera is trying to stabilize itself.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: There is a plane there somewhere.

LIN: We are depending on our affiliate, WDAL.

Anyway,one of the passengers on that plane spoke to us a short while ago, and he's back on the phone with us, Jim Jinjozian.

Jim, you are still onboard right?

JIM JINJOZIAN, PASSENGER: Yes, we are.

LIN: All right, we are looking at a live picture of your plane right now. The authorities that were standing by below are gone. I don't know if they've been on board, but what's going on right now?

JINJOZIAN: We have restarted the engines. We've been allowed to restart the engines. The officials have backed away. They boarded the plane, did a little search of the cockpit, and I guess checked the manifest, checked the passengers. They have disappeared, and we are allowed to restart the engines. We were told we would be going to the gate with an escort, and be prepared to have some ID available when we get in.

LIN: What did the pilot tell you, if anything?

JINJOZIAN: That's what he told us. That's exactly what he told us.

LIN: He did not explain what happened?

JINJOZIAN: No, he just said there has been a terrible misunderstanding that somehow communications got scrambled once they were in the air. I think he said they left Charlotte fine. Somewhere back over Raleigh, in that general area, something got misspoken or miscommunicated and they set up an intercept, and to the Baltimore, this was the original destination anyway, but they guided us in.

LIN: Did the pilot say that something he said was miscommunicated to the control tower and therefore...

JINJOZIAN: He is blaming it on air traffic. He is blaming it on ATC.

LIN: So he is saying that it was something that air traffic control said that was misunderstood as a hijacking underway.

JINJOZIAN: We do not know if it was a hijacking or what, what kind of a threat it was. He did not mention that. You don't say those things on airplanes.

LIN: Right, but we do say those things here on CNN. We Have some reporting on the ground out of the Washington D.C. bureau interest from our correspondent Kathleen Koch, who has been reporting that the miscommunication has to do with some sort of message that was sent that a hijacking was underway on your plane.

JINJOZIAN: Well, I mean I know I sleep a lot on the airplane, but I can guarantee you there was not a hijacking going on.

LIN: All right, everything calm, and no suspicious activities by the passengers, right?

JINJOZIAN: Everything is pretty good.

HARRIS: Jim, Leon Harris here, Jim. I just want to bounce a quick question off of you here.

Did the guys that came onboard, the officials that came onboard, did any of them come through the cabin?

JINJOZIAN: They looked into the cabin. They did not really come down the whole cabin to check our IDs.

HARRIS: How many of them did you see?

JINJOZIAN: Between on the ground -- there was probably 25-30 people at least that we could see.

HARRIS: How many aboard the plane, do you know?

JINJOZIAN: Half a dozen.

HARRIS: Half a dozen.

JINJOZIAN: ... the people mover over to get into the plane because the plane is so high, so they -- we thought we were getting off on the people mover, but it was just so they could get on the airplane.

LIN: Were they heavily armed, Jim?

JINJOZIAN: Not that a heavily. I saw standard issue revolvers and things like that, but that was about it.

HARRIS: What was the flight crew doing?

JINJOZIAN: They were very calm. They were very helpful.

HARRIS: Do you think they were just putting on a good act or what?

JINJOZIAN: Don't know.

HARRIS: That may be something you ask them when you meet them in the bar up there at the terminal.

LIN: Jim, you've got a great story to tell. For the viewers who are just joining us right now, can you give them an idea of when you first noticed that there was something wrong?

JINJOZIAN: At around 9:30. What time is it now?

LIN: Almost 11:00.

JINJOZIAN: Well, I have a client that was expecting me in at 10:00, so I hope they understand.

LIN: If they are watching, I'm sure they will. Not too many times that your appointment is stuck on a suspected hijacking.

But you actually looked out your window and saw the tail of a F- 16, right midair?

JINJOZIAN: Yes, we did.

LIN: The intercept took place somewhere over the Raleigh-Durham area?

JINJOZIAN: Yes.

LIN: What was going through your mind at the time?

JINJOZIAN: I'm being asked to get off of the cell phone, because we are moving again. Appreciate your help. Thank you.

LIN: Must obey the federal laws. Thank you very much, Jim Jinjozian, you have a good trip, and a good stay in the Baltimore area. Thanks for sharing your story.

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