THE PHANTOM OF THE AIRWAVES UNMASKED BY FAA IN ROANOKE

THE PHANTOM OF THE AIRWAVES UNMASKED BY FAA IN ROANOKE

Using a transmitter and manuals anyone can buy through the mail, a man dubbed the Roanoke Phantom posed as an air traffic controller and gave pilots bogus instructions.

The airwave piracy went on for six weeks before Federal Aviation Administration agents using radio receivers and antennas traced most of the signals to an old Buick that cruised the outskirts of Roanoke Regional Airport.Rodney E. Bocook, a 27-year-old unemployed janitor, was charged with communicating information that endangered the safety of aircraft in flight. He could get up to 22 years in prison. He was ordered held without bail.

None of the phony transmissions caused any accidents or close calls, though some pilots followed some of the instructions, said Paul Steucke, FAA spokesman.

The Roanoke Phantom, as he was called by controllers, told pilots of commercial and private planes to break off their landings at the last minute or change altitudes. He also transmitted a phony distress call about an ultra- light aircraft.

A trial date in federal court will be set after Mr. Bocook undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.