There are two important things to know about the outbreak of fake ATC radio calls to Australian airliners in recent weeks.
The first is that ‘my voice is my identification’, as many users of the Australian Taxation Office caller ID facility would know, generates voice prints that can be compared to using fingerprints in verifying identity.
The second thing to know is that some inside knowledge of the radio frequencies and protocols used by the air traffic control system is required to be sufficiently convincing to imitate a real ATC officer to an airline pilot.
This isn’t to necessarily say the call is being made by an ATC officer in pursuit of public nuisance or industrial relations purposes. There is a significant community of aircraft watchers who monitor and study ATC communications, and on occasions, publicly post calls between aircraft and air navigation services such as Airservices Australia when there is a flight turnback, or other emergency.
But there is a massive amount of ATC voice tapes available for law enforcement authorities to run for matches beside the voice of the hoaxer or hoaxers who have been doing their mischief in recent weeks in this country.
The AFP has reason to be dismayed that the story has leaked out. An arrest would clearly from their point of view, have been preferable, and the airlines clearly want to avoid ill-informed copycat hoaxes.
Another matter to consider is that official statements that ‘safety isn’t compromised’ are nonsensical. While no-one, other than the hoaxer or hoaxers has been imperiled so far by the incidents in Australia, they do carry the risk of unintended consequences in which such a call might interfere with disastrous results with a real crisis involving an airliner in what are the busy skies that comprise the approach and departure air traffic control areas around major airports.