Terrorist Hijacking of Pacifica 762 SQUAWK 7500 1045 Central Standard Time

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Karen Schumacher had been at Pacifica for eleven years.

She never intended to be with the airline that long. Karen had applied for a flight attendant job because it looked like it would be fun and exciting. But it wasn't going to be her life's work. She studied fashion design at San Diego State University on her days off and, as soon as she had her degree in hand, she was off to the Big Apple to make her mark in the Garment District. However, during the summer, between her junior and senior year, she volunteered to work a charter flight to St. Louis, unaware that her future soul- mate was sitting in the first officer's seat.

An intense courtship ensued, followed by a brief engagement that culminated in a lavish wedding held the same week that she graduated from SDSU. The nuptial was attended by practically every flight attendant and pilot at Pacifica Airlines.

That was nine years, and two kids, ago. Karen's husband is now a captain, she is a senior flight attendant, and the Garment District is a fading memory. She still considers her job "fun" even though she occasionally feels guilty leaving the kids at home without their mommy.

Karen was standing in the aft galley, facing the service door, when Mike answered her call.

"Mike, we have a male passenger in the back that is starting to cause trouble for the people sitting around him."

Mike was dumbfounded and slightly perturbed by the vagueness of her declaration.

"What do you mean by ‘causing trouble'?" he asked her.
For some reason that Mike couldn't understand, Karen answered him in a whisper.

"He's becoming very combative toward me and the other girls. Also, he's kicking the seatback in front of him and screaming profanities at the other passengers."

"Where is he now? Is he moving about the cabin or messing around in the galleys?"

Again, Karen answered in a whisper, "Right now he's still in - gotta go!"

The line went dead.

Mike removed the handset from his ear, briefly looked at it, and then placed it back to his ear.

"Karen? Karen?" he said into the phone.

There wasn't any response so Mike slowly hung up the phone. He folded his arms across his chest and appeared to be falling into a deep trance.

Gary had monitored the phone call from his set of radios.
He looked at Mike and, with a quizzical tone in his voice, said, "I wonder what that's all about?"

Mike continued sitting motionless. Gary thought that perhaps he hadn't heard him so he was getting ready to ask his question again when, suddenly, Mike bolted upright in his seat.

"Where are we?" he asked Gary.

Both pilots obviously knew that they were somewhere between Chicago and Seattle but neither knew their exact location. Gary selected the "Present Position" page on the flight management computer. The computer indicated that the aircraft was at the assigned altitude, flying the correct heading to their destination, and passing over south-central South Dakota. Mike let out a groan as he looked at the computer screen.

"What's the matter?" Gary asked.

Mike responded, "I have a sneaking suspicion that our day is getting ready to take a turn for the worse. And if you look at the charts, you'll notice there aren't any airports in this part of the country that can handle a heavy jet. Damn!"

Gary asked, "What makes you think we might have to find a landing spot out here?"

"Well, I don't know for sure. It's just that I've been around long enough to get these funny feelings whenever bizarre stuff starts happening. And a flight attendant hanging up the way she did is definitely bizarre. In eighteen years of flying, I've never had that happen!" Mike thought for a second and then continued, "Let's complete the FFDO checklist and then I'm going to contact the company."

Both pilots had been trained by the Transportation Security Administration to be Federal Flight Deck Officers, licensed to carry a handgun while at work and authorized to use deadly force to defend the cockpit. Mike and Gary ensured that their semi-automatic 9mm pistols were in the proper position. They discussed the possibility that the strange behavior of the passenger may be an attempt to take the flight attendant's attention away from the cockpit door. It was agreed, that if a breach of the door occurred, Gary would defend the cockpit with all of the deadly force available and Mike would assume control of the aircraft. Neither pilot cherished the thought of actually killing anybody but, after the tragedy of 9-11, both of them were acutely aware of the consequences of allowing a terrorist into the cockpit.
With the cockpit security checklist complete, Mike thought it best to inform the company of his current situation. On the forward portion of the center console is a device called "ACARS". Its function is to allow pilots and their dispatch office to send airborne e-mails to each other. Mike sent an e-mail to his dispatcher telling him that the senior flight attendant had called to report an abusive passenger in the cabin and he would send additional information as it became available. Several minutes later the reply from dispatch arrived - "roger, keep us advised."

Mike had printed a copy of the message from Dispatch and was storing it in the flight case behind his seat when Gary said, "Mike, check this out." Whatever it was, Mike knew from the tone of Gary's voice, that it wasn't going to be good. Mike locked the flight case and raised his head.

Just visible on the horizon, a hundred or so miles away, were the blossoming tops of a line of thunderstorms stretching from Canada to Colorado. Mike stared intently at the approaching weather and said, "Damn! Those weren't in the forecast."

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Next: Saturday 1105 Central Standard Time

Captain Steve A. Reeves is author of fiction book SQUAWK 7500 Terrorist Hijacking of Pacifica 762 rue and it is true story. Book will be soon available on Amazon. Stay tuned.

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