الكاتب: John Gardner
Euro air traffic Control Centre, at Maastricht on the Belgian–Dutch border, passed British Airways Flight 12 over to London Control, at West Drayton, just as the aircraft cleared the coast a few miles from Ostend Frank Kennen had been on duty for less than ten minutes when he accepted the flight, instructing the Boeing 747 Jumbo to descend from 29,000 feet to 20,000. It was only one of many aircraft showing on his radarscope – a green speck of light, with its corresponding number, 12, together with the aircraft’s altitude and heading All appeared normal. The flight was entering the final phase of its long haul from Singapore via Bahrain. Kennen automatically began to advise Heathrow approach control that Speedbird 12 was inbound. His eyes remained on the huge radarscope. Speedbird 12 began its descent, the altitude numbers reducing steadily on the screen. ‘Speedbird One-Two cleared to two-o; vector . . .’ He stopped in mid-sentence, only vaguely aware of Heathrow approach querying his information. What he now saw on the scope made his stomach turn over. With dramatic suddenness, the indicator numbers 12 – ‘squawked’ by the Boeing’s transponder – flicked off and changed Now, instead of the steady green 12 beside the blip, there were three red zeros blinking on and off rapidly Three red zeros are the international ‘squawk’ signal for hijack His voice calm, Frank Kennen called up the aircraft. ‘Speedbird One-Two you are cleared to twoo Did you squawk affirmative?’ If there was trouble on board, the wording would sound like a routine exchange. But there was no response Thirty seconds passed, and Kennen repeated his question Still no response Sixty seconds Still no response.