US warship threatens Qantas airliner

Sydney (AP) - The United States apologised to Australia yesterday after a US Navy warship on exercise wrongly threatened a Qantas airliner forcing it to change course over the Pacific about an hour after it left Los Angeles. Qantas said the pilot was told to get out of local airspace or face 'hostile action'. The pilot identified himself, saying he was on a commercial flight, but he had to divert his plane to land in Sydney.

Australian's Channel Nine reported the message to the pilot as: 'You are being targeted. Leave the area or you will be fired upon.' A US Department of Defense statement said the ship had 'mistakenly used an international distress frequency, instead of a designated exercise frequency, to broadcast an exercise warning.' The airliner had never been in danger, said the US Pacific Fleet, because the exercise was testing only radar and communications equipment.