Air safety alert as radio hackers talk to pilots

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The Independent Online

Britain's aviation watchdog has issued a safety alert after a rise in the number of instances in which radio hackers have posed as air traffic controllers and given false instructions to pilots.

Britain's aviation watchdog has issued a safety alert after a rise in the number of instances in which radio hackers have posed as air traffic controllers and given false instructions to pilots.

In all 20 cases reported so far this year, the pilots determined that the instructions were bogus, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said yesterday.

In a safety circular, the CAA noted "a significant increase in the number of reported occurrences of unauthorised and malicious transmissions being made on UK air traffic frequencies." In 1998 only three cases were reported, but the number rose to 18 last year.

The CAA said it did not consider this a major safety issue as, before taking action, pilots have to read back instructions to controllers. The radio hackers also often use incorrect technology, which tips off pilots.

But Richard Dawson, president of the Guild of Air Traffic Controllers, said: "This is a criminal act which could ultimately result in a serious accident. The problem is that the people making these spurious calls are mobile and can be very difficult to trace."

The portable transmitters used by hackers are supposed to be operated only with a licence. They can be bought for as little as £300.

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