Mock hijacks play out over U.S., Canada

June 4, 2002 at 1:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 4 (UPI) -- Two mock hijackings involving both military and civilian aircraft were playing out in the United States and Canada Tuesday as part of a binational and multi-agency air terrorism exercise, officials said.

The operation, sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, involves up to 1,500 people from a variety of agencies and authorities.

"The bottom line here is that NORAD has these exercises to train for the worst-case scenarios," said Canadian Army Maj. Douglas Martin, deputy director of NORAD public affairs.

Amalgam Virgo 02, the latest annual exercise, involves a chartered Delta Airlines 757 flying over Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia before landing at a U.S. Air Force base in Alaska, where negotiators would be on the ground.

The other aircraft is a U.S. Navy C-9 from Washington that would land at Vancouver International Airport.

Martin said both aircraft, with role players on board as passengers and hijackers, were to receive instructions once in-air, detailing the hijacking scenario affecting them and the roles they were to play.

As well as civilian aviation and law enforcement agencies, the military would track the aircraft and scramble fighters to intercept and escort the planes.

"This is very intense, very realistic," Martin told United Press International.

The Pentagon said the exercise to validate coordinating and operational procedures was not related to any current threat.

Among those taking part are people from the FBI, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transport Canada, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Vancouver Airport Authority and Delta Air Lines.

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