French jets scrambled for silent Spanish plane

11th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

11 August 2004, PARIS - French military jets were scrambled to intercept a Spanish airliner feared to be hi-jacked for a suicide crash mission on a summit of European leaders, it was revealed Wednesday.

11 August 2004

PARIS - French military jets were scrambled to intercept a Spanish airliner feared to be hi-jacked for a suicide crash mission on a summit of European leaders, it was revealed Wednesday.

The Air Europa Boeing 737, carrying 186 passengers, kept unusual radio silence during its pan-European route on 1 May from the Norwegian city of Bergen to the Spanish island of Mallorca, just as European leaders were meeting in the Irish capital Dublin for a special summit marking European Union enlargement.

The alert, reported in the Spanish press and confirmed by the German Defence Ministry Wednesday, was first raised after the pilots of the 737 failed to sign-off with Norwegian air traffic control as it entered Danish air space.

Military jets from the Netherlands were first scrambled to make contact with the plane as it headed south to France, but the Spanish crew ignored repeated radio requests for identification.

"At no time did the plane's commanders think the communications calling for identification were aimed at them" said the airline Air Europa in a statement.

It said the pilots, Alberto Fernández and Enrique Martín, were listening in to air traffic

messages and were only silent themselves for 20 minutes, which it described as a "quite normal period".

The crew finally responded when two intercepting French air force jets surrounded the airliner, subsequently allowing it to continue on its route to Palma.

Spanish daily El Pais reported that Dutch justice officials have opened an investigation into the incident, which could lead to charges against the crew for violating international air traffic regulations.

© Expatica France News

Subject: French news

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