Saturday, 17 November 2012

Derg man 'saves US flight' from Sandy

A Co Tyrone amateur radio enthusiast claims to have averted disaster and saved the lives of hundreds of people, after intercepting a mayday call from a Dublin to Boston flight.

Castlederg man Benny Young with his radio equipment. (© Pacemaker)

Benny Young, 29 and from Castlederg, told the Ulster Herald he made contact with the pilot of a United Airlines transatlantic flight who was having difficulty reaching Air Traffic Control in Boston.

It happened on the night of Monday 29 October, when Superstorm Sandy began to hit the east coast of America.

"The flight couldn't hear anything on the ground," Benny told the newspaper.

"They must have thought they were going to be able to land before the weather turned. Then the storm arrived and they didn't think they were going to reach Boston at all."

Tuning in to the American emergency frequency, Benny then claims to have made contact with a fellow amateur radio enthusiast, who in turn contacted Logan International Airport.

By relaying messages in this way, the plane was said to have been safely diverted to land at an airport in Buffalo.

"It was one of those freak incidents. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before," Benny said.

On the same night, incredibly, a second flight was said to have experienced similar difficulties while en route from Heathrow to Boston.

"I did the same thing and this time the plane was re-routed to JFK," Benny, who is a member of Strabane Amateur Radio Society, said.

The society's secretary, Terry Whyte, told the Ulster Herald that Benny should be proud of himself.

"Certain stations are set aside on these bands and Benny was at the right frequency at the right time," he said.

"He recorded everything in his log, but we still gave him a good grilling at the last club meeting - in fact, everyone else is jealous. This kind of thing is an amateur radio man's dream."

However, the Irish Aviation Authority told UTV it would have a record of any flight out of Dublin experiencing such problems, whether it happened in Irish or foreign airspace.

"I checked with our North Atlantic Communications station and they experienced absolutely no communications issues during the time of Hurricane Sandy," a spokesman said.

- U-TV News

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