civil aviation

Hoax radio transmissions cause aeroplane to abort landing at Melbourne airport

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 2:15pm

Police are investigating 15 incidents of illegal radio transmissions with aircraft at Melbourne and Avalon airports, including hoax calls that forced at least one aircraft to abort its landing.

In a statement issued on Monday night, the Australian federal police said there had been “unlawful interference with air traffic control broadcasts over several weeks”.

Audio obtained by the ABC revealed that, during one of the calls, the hoax caller pretended to be the pilot of a light aircraft as he spoke to an air traffic controller.

“I can see you there now. Roger your Mayday. Could you please advise what your situation is,” the air traffic control operator asks. “Engine failure,” the hoax caller replies. “Descending passing through 4,500.”

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In another incident a Virgin Australia flight en route from the Gold Coast to Melbourne was forced to change course under the instruction of the hoax caller transmitting from an unknown location, the ABC reported. A Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Guardian Australia she could not comment on the incident as the matter was now under investigation by police.

While police said there was no threat to the safety of travellers, and that travellers did not need to change their plans, they have issued a call to the public to provide information. The police statement refers to one person being responsible for the calls.

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The AFP’s head of crime operations, the acting assistant commissioner Chris Sheehan, said the incidents were being investigated with technical support from the Australian Communications and Media Authority. .

“The airlines have been briefed to ensure the advice has been passed on to their pilots and to ensure appropriate measures are in place,” he said.

Airservices Australia, which provides traffic control and navigation advice, said at no time was public safety jeopardised as a result of the calls and that it was working closely with the airlines and the AFP.

Unauthorised transmissions on non-public channels are an offence under the Radio Communications Act and carries a jail term of up to 20 years.