If a commercial aircraft is successfully hijacked, by a competent pilot / pilots, and they make contact with ATC for regular requests (i.e. weather updates, flight path information or clearing air traffic), will ATC still aid the (new) pilots, or do they have some other procedure, like trying to persuade them to hand control back to the original pilots?

I'm just wondering if there is a formal procedure for such an event, as I'm guessing it's rather unlikely that they would contact ATC like that. But always possible, of course.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure there are protocols for who they notify, but procedures will vary widely between countries. As for giving assistance, if the hijackers intend to land the airplane it's in the interests of everyone that ATC helps them. Knowing the intentions would be tricky of course. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ Example: theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/17/… $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Ben Very interesting but I wonder if he actually spoke to ATC to land? Or just went for an empty runway... $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Will they release it if someone emails them? Or maybe someone working for FAA on this site can obtain the procedures... $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Cloud I have no idea, but I think it's very unlikely. Why would the government share (presumably) classified security protocols with anyone who just asks? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 13:58

2 Answers 2


In the US, the ATC protocol for hijackings is classified for reasons of national security.

10-2-6 Hijacked aircraft

Hijack attempts or actual events are a matter of national security and require special handling. Policy and procedures for hijack situations are detailed in FAAO JO 7610.4, Special Operations. FAAO JO 7610.4 describes reporting requirements, air crew procedures, air traffic procedures and escort or interceptor procedures for hijack situations

Air Traffic Organization Policy, FAA, 2015-12-10.

This document's content can only be accessed from within the FAA network.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought maybe some ATCs would be active on this site that could reveal the info... thanks though :) $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 10:07
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ As valuable as internet points are, not sure they’re worth risking your job, country, and freedom for. $\endgroup$
    – Hugh
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 10:09

According to ICAO doc 4444 ATC will treat the hijacked aircraft with extra care - since the aircraft is considered to be in a state of emergency. Extra separation will be provided between the hijacked aircraft and other aircraft. Whenever unlawful interference with an aircraft is known or suspected or a bomb threat warning has been received, ATS units shall promptly attend to requests by, or to anticipated needs of, the aircraft, including requests for relevant information relating to air navigation facilities, procedures and services along the route of flight and at any aerodrome of intended landing, and shall take such action as is necessary to expedite the conduct of all phases of the flight.

This does not mean that the authorities will not take some other actions - but what they will do is classified.


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