Man Arrested for Impersonating ATC at Buenos Aires Airport

Dec 3, 2018

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On Monday, Nov. 11, a man was arrested for impersonating Air Traffic Control at Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP) and sending false messages to a pilot.

The pilot, who was set to fly Aerolíneas Argentinas flight AR-1694, noticed something was off when he was issued a permit for take-off toward Bariloche on runway 13 from the wrong vector data. He was able to inform the real air traffic controller, who then contacted the police. The impersonator, a 60-year-old who had previously acquired an amateur radio license as a private pilot, was caught red-handed nearby the airport. The incident caused an airport-wide delay of 30 minutes, and the perpetrator now faces up to eight years in prison.

Argentine Air Navigation Company, EANA, have since claimed to have “tightened up” security measures at the airport. For the time being, police intend to keep how the impersonator was able to interfere with airport radio frequencies under wraps due to the proximity of the 2018 G20 Summit. However, according to TPG editor-at-large Zachary Honig, interfering with ATC and pilot communication via radio is easier than you would think. “Pilots are able to transmit on the same frequencies as Air Traffic Control, since the two need to communicate. And you don’t need to be on a plane to broadcast — brand-new handheld radios are widely available for a couple hundred bucks,” Honig says. “Even planes from the 50s have compatible radios, so the necessary equipment is easier to come by than you might expect.”

To learn more about how ATC handles emergencies, click here.

Featured image by EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images.

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