US & Canada

Pilot's coffee spill 'caused hijack alert', Canada says

The tail of a United Airlines flight
Image caption United Airlines Flight 940 was carrying 241 passengers

A pilot's spilled coffee has been blamed for accidentally activating a hijacking alert and prompting a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Germany to stop in Canada on Monday.

The pilot of Flight 940 triggered an emergency code after spilling coffee on radio equipment while en route to Frankfurt, Transport Canada said.

The aircraft landed safely at Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

The incident is still being investigated by safety officials.

Canada's defence department was contacted after an emergency was declared. But United Airlines dispatch staff quickly confirmed the incident to be a communication issue and not a hijacking.

A Transport Canada report said the US Federal Aviation Administration indicated the pilot "had inadvertently squawked a 7500 code after spilling coffee on the aircraft's radio equipment, which interfered with the communications equipment".

Instead of flying the plane over the Atlantic, the captain decided to reroute the plane to Toronto in order for it to be fixed, United Airlines spokesperson Rahsaan Johnson said on Monday.

A second aircraft took passengers back to Chicago from Toronto, allowing them to board another flight for Frankfurt on Tuesday.

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