Yukon filmmaker wants PM to explain 9/11 Korean Air hijacking mystery

Five years after producing a documentary on the events, Max Fraser still doesn't know exactly why two Korean Air planes were diverted to Whitehorse on Sept. 11, 2001.

Max Fraser wants to know why 2 planes were diverted to Whitehorse on Sept. 11, 2001

Smoke pours from the twin towers of the World Trade Center after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. (Robert Giroux/Getty)

A Yukon filmmaker is asking the Canadian federal government to release information he believes is being withheld about that horrifying day on Sept. 11, 2001, when two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City, killing nearly 3,000 people.

While thousands scrambled in New York, people in Whitehorse, more than 5,800 kilometres away, were told to leave the city centre, evacuating downtown buildings and schools.

"People started peeling out of the parking lots and spraying gravel and I thought, 'Oh my god, my daughter is at Whitehorse Elementary," said Max Fraser, who produced a 45-minute documentary, Never Happen Here: The Whitehorse 9/11 Story.
Max Fraser produced a 45-minute documentary on the events that happened in Whitehorse on Sept. 11, 2001, which aired on CBC's Documentary Channel as well as CBC North TV in 2011 and 2012. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

"So like thousands of other parents, I got in my car and went as fast as I could to find my kid and get her to safety."

Five years after his documentary aired, Fraser is still wondering what exactly happened in Whitehorse that day.

As told in his film, Fraser ended up with the mysterious tale of how Korean Air Flight 085, bound for New York City, came to land at the then-Whitehorse International Airport at 11:54 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.

He learned that two Korean planes were transmitting a hijack "squawk" (a transponder signal that can be set by a pilot to alert authorities on the ground of a hostile takeover), even though all was well on board the flights.

Fraser says he's since obtained information from the United States government, including air traffic control conversations with the diverted Korean planes.

But says he still has questions.

He says the Canadian federal government has promised openness and transparency, and so he hopes a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will reveal more information.

He believes key details are being withheld from Canadians and says it's important for him — and everyone else across the country — to get the full story.


  • An earlier version of this story referred to a "squawk" as a satellite code set by a pilot. In fact, it is a transponder signal sent by radio.
    Sep 12, 2016 4:08 PM CT