There have been plenty of bizarre things in travel this year but you can bump this incident to the top of the list. An almost two-minute video has gone viral on TikTok and Twitter, showing passengers reacting to what appears to be someone hacking into an American Airlines public address system.

When I first heard about it, I thought for sure it was a prank but once you watch the video, you realize it’s not.

An actor named Emerson Collins with the Twitter handle @ActuallyEmerson filmed and tweeted: “The weirdest flight ever. These sounds started over the intercom before takeoff and continued throughout the flight. They couldn’t stop it, and after landing still had no idea what it was.”

Emerson was on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dallas and he tweeted that he filmed about 15 minutes of the noises and pieced his video together. He says in the video: “Someone on this flight seems to have broken into the intercom system and continues to make a sound.”

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Then, you can hear the flight attendant make an announcement saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, we realize there is an extremely irritating sound coming over the public announcement. The flight deck is trying to troubleshoot, trying to turn it off so please be patient with us. We know this is a very odd anomaly and none of us are enjoying it so we do appreciate your attention just for a few more moments while we try to figure out how to turn it off.”

At another point in the pieced-together video, the flight attendant tells Emerson she swears it’s a prank and in the next clip, you can hear the captain make announcement saying: “We’re looking into things to do to try and mitigate that. Will do what we can, if not will let them know when we get to Dallas.”

It turns out this happened on September 6 and in an interview today with the Los Angeles Times, Emerson said it happened “for the first half-hour of the flight, the noise returned every two to three minutes, Collins estimated, so he took out his phone and began recording. Many people were snoozing, and some had slipped on their headphones, but Collins, delighting in the hilarity of it, wanted the full experience, he said.”

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According to Gary Leff from View From The Wing: “American Airlines inspected the Boeing 737-800 as well as the P.A. system itself after these reports. They tell me that maintenance “determined the sounds were caused by an issue with the PA amplifier. There was no external access to the system.”

I don’t believe that it was a malfunctioning P.A. but I can understand AA’s desire to try and quash worries about any spooky sh*t that’s happening on their aircrafts.

In the Los Angeles Times story, they said someone else had a similar experience: “Bradley P. Allen, a technology executive from Manhattan Beach, couldn’t believe what he was hearing when he stumbled across the video on Twitter. He had the same perplexing experience during his American Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy Airport to LAX in July.”

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There are also reports of this happening again on an American Airlines flight from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to Dallas on Sept. 18. @xJonNYC tweeted: “Reports of similar noises on yet another American Airlines flight, this one from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to Dallas on Sept. 18, also made their way to Twitter in recent days.”

He then says: “So, worth adding; at this point I have ZERO idea what/how/if on this whole thing. Additional details tricked in but didn’t add much: “Sounded like a male voice and wouldn’t last more than 5-10 seconds before stopping. And has [intermittently] happened on and off all flight long … I also feel the need to add that the “hacked into” part is the part I’m having the most trouble with– it doesn’t feel physically possible. At same time, cannot for the life of me figure out what the eventual explanation is gonna be.”

So, what do you think? Is this a malfunctioning system, a prank or something more sinister?

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2 Comments On "Truly Bizarre Video: Is Someone Hacking into American Airlines' In-Flight PA Systems?"
  1. Patrick|

    There are companies like https://ioactive.com/ that document ways hackers can exploit the 3rd party systems (like Panasonic) that airlines use. They provide the information to the 3rd parties vendors AND the airlines. But, it is up to the vendors and airlines to close the loopholes and exploit paths in the systems. The vendors also train technicians to service the systems. It is likely a tech who was laid off or fired who knows the systems inside and out who is hacking.

  2. John|

    Not news. There have been numerous reports of hackers on board an aircraft tampering with the entertainment box under the seat and gaining access to the entertainment system and then the aircraft messaging bus on which aircraft control systems communicate. Here’s one I found:

    https://www.wired.com/2015/05/feds-say-banned-researcher-commandeered-plane/

    Google the topic and there are many other reports.

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