Pilots oblivious to air alarm

11th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 August 2004, MADRID - The pilots of a Spanish passenger plane that was intercepted by two French fighters because they thought it could be on a suicide mission said on Wednesday that they didn't realise various radio calls to identify their aircraft were aimed at them.

11 August 2004

MADRID -  The pilots of a Spanish passenger plane that was intercepted by two French fighters because they thought it could be on a suicide mission said on Wednesday that they didn't realise various radio calls to identify their aircraft were aimed at them.

The incident, reported in the Spanish press on Wednesday, actually took place on 1 May – the day the European Union was celebrating the joining of 10 new members.

An Air Europa Boeing 737, which kept radio silence for 20 minutes on route from the Norwegian city of Bergen to Palma, raised suspicions that a similar attack to 11 September could be about to take place in a European capital.

In a statement issued on behalf of the pilots, the airline said that Alberto Fernández y Enrique Martín were listening in to air traffic messages all the time and were only silent themselves for 20  minutes – a "quite normal period".

"At no time did the plane's commanders think the communications calling for identification were aimed at them".

Six military aircraft — two each from Germany, the Netherlands and France — were scrambled into the air to intercept the Air Europa plane which was carrying 186 passengers and seven crew.

It was the French fighters that finally managed to get the pilots' attention. The Air Europa plane was allowed to fly on unescorted to Palma once communication had been established.

Air Europa claimed that in the first 10 days of May there had been "more than 20 similar situations" recorded by Eurocontrol, which "did not raise the alarms".

The airline said the pilots had not said signed off with Norwegian air controllers because they expected the controllers to contact them.

It was this lack of communication that prompted the Norwegians to alert the Danes who in turn warned other countries on the route.

Judges in the Netherlands have opened an investigation in the incident, saying the pilots could have broken various air traffic regulations.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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