Moans and Worse Heard Over Airline's PA System

American blames technical glitch, but internet sleuths aren't so sure
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2022 3:09 PM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
Seriously Weird Noises Heard Over Airline's PA System
Two American Airlines Boeing 737s are shown at the gate, Thursday, July 7, 2022, at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

"Explosive diarrhea, vomiting, and a weird, vaguely sexual moan." Per Gizmodo, that’s how film producer and actor Emerson Collins described the sounds emanating from the public announcement system on an American Airlines flight from LA to Dallas on Sept. 6. In the video, which Collins posted last week, distinctly humanlike moans and groans can be heard before a flight attendant comes over the PA saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, we realize there is an extremely irritating sound coming over the public announcement system. The flight deck is trying to troubleshoot … none of us are enjoying it." Later, the captain is also heard saying they’re trying to mitigate the problem, and "it’s not cool."

Since Collins posted his video, other passengers have come forward describing similar incidents on other American flights as far back as July, per the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, including a passenger on Sept. 18 who complained about "moaning and screaming sounds." As internet sleuths posited theories about tricksters hacking in-flight systems, American released a statement explaining that the "PA systems onboard our aircraft are hardwired and there is no external access." The statement also said that, following the Sept. 18 incident, a maintenance team "thoroughly inspected the aircraft and the PA system and determined the sounds were caused by a mechanical issue with the PA amplifier." The airline added that it's "reviewing additional reports."

As Gizmodo's Lucas Ropek points out, the airline’s explanation "doesn’t explain why the noises being amplified were those of a person losing their lunch." According to Interesting Engineering, the only plausible explanation to emerge thus far came from "a former avionics guy" on Reddit, who wrote that "the most likely culprit IMHO is the medical intercom. There are jacks mounted in the overhead bins at intervals down the full length of the airplane that have both receive, transmit, and key controls … All somebody would need to do is plug a homemade dongle with a Bluetooth receiver into one of those, take a trip to the lav, and start making noises into a paired mic." (Read more American Airlines stories.)

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