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Apple TV+ Hijack Finale: Which Protocols Would Be Followed In Real Life?


  • Cockpit security is crucial in preventing hijackings. Pilots should never let unauthorized individuals into the cockpit to maintain control of the aircraft.
  • Squawking the code 7500 on the aircraft transponder can silently indicate a hijacking to air traffic control and nearby aircraft.
  • In the event of a hijacking, the pilot should divert and land the aircraft at the nearest suitable airport, where controllers can prioritize its landing and provide necessary assistance.

Now that all seven episodes of the hit show, Hijack is available on Apple TV+, this mini-feature will look at the safety protocols that are supposed to be followed if such a hijack incident were to happen in real life.

Spoilers Ahead. If you have not watched the show in its entirety, please bookmark this article and come back to it once you are finished with the show!

Do not let them in

Cockpit security is something taken very seriously in the aviation industry, and for very good reasons. In most aircraft these days, pilots have live footage of people that approach the cockpit door, thus allowing the flight crew to determine whether to let the person in. Additionally, the pilots can communicate directly with the crew at their stations, so there are very few reasons why anyone (including the crew) should be allowed into the cockpit.

The captain’s cardinal mistake in the first episode was that he gave in to the hijackers’ threats and let them into the cockpit, thereby losing control of the aircraft. In reality, this should never happen.

Hijack captain picture

Photo: Apple TV+

It is a rule that if a hijack occurs, the captain is to lock the cockpit door. The situation is so delicate that, as reported by Mint, the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 1990 stated that family members of the pilots cannot operate the same flights as the pilots because this could result in the pilots making irrational decisions in the event of the aircraft being hijacked.

Squawk 7500

While the transponder onboard is used to relay flight position data, such as aircraft ID and altitudes for the ATC and other traffic, it can also be used to communicate some essential information. By squawking the code 7500 (international squawk code for hijacking) on an aircraft transponder, the pilot can let the outside world know that a hijack is occurring without saying a single word out loud on the radio.

Hijack atc Source Apple TV+

Photo: Apple TV+

Although in many major airports, the ATC would be busy with aircraft both on the ground and air, if any aircraft squawks the code, it will show up on the controller’s screen quite noticeably regardless of how busy the airport and airspace are.

If the pilot had done this in the show, all nearby traffic and the controllers of every airspace the aircraft flew through would have known exactly what the situation was much sooner.

Other important squawk codes include 7600, which indicates communication failure, and 7700, which indicates the aircraft is in distress.

Land the aircraft

A hijacked aircraft, as demonstrated in the show, is at its most dangerous when it is in flight. Thus, it is imperative that the aircraft is diverted and landed at the closest viable airport. This would not be an issue if the pilot still has control of the aircraft and the ATC knows of the situation.

This way, the controllers will clear other traffic and give priority to the aircraft in danger and help with the expedited landing, and, once on the ground, guide the aircraft toward an isolation bay. Military jets could also be scrambled if required so that the controllers can have an external view of the aircraft and the situation from the outside and provide additional assistance.

Sources: Apple, Mint.


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