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Pilot's spilt coffee on United Air Lines flight triggers hijacking alert

A pilot's spilt coffee inadvertently triggered a hijacking alert and interfered with the communications system on a United Air Lines jetliner, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Pearson International Airport Monday evening.

Flight 940 from Chicago to Frankfurt was in the air when the commanding captain spilled the caffeinated beverage onto the plane's radio, causing it to send out transponder code (or "squawk") 7500, denoting a highjacking, says a Transport Canada report released Tuesday.

Dispatchers on the ground quickly got in touch to make sure everything was alright, and the crew apparently corrected the code to simply indicate that the plane was having problems with its communications equipment.

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Rather than attempt the entire flight with a faulty communications system, the crew opted to make an emergency landing.

"The flight crew initially diverted to return to Chicago, but subsequently declared an emergency...and diverted to Toronto," wrote Transport Canada.

The plane landed safely shortly before 10 p.m. Its 241 passengers were uninjured.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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