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Luftwaffe fighters pursue Swedish charter plane

Luftwaffe fighters pursue Swedish charter plane

Published: 25 Jul 2012 15:14 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Jul 2012 15:14 GMT+02:00

“The plane had lost radio contact momentarily and the German planes were there to make sure everything was alright,” confirmed Alexander Huber, CEO of the air company Tuifly Nordic to The Local.

The plane had taken off from the Gothenburg Landvetter airport and was cruising over Bremen when it suddenly lost radio contact with air traffic contol.

“Air traffic control lost radio contact with the plane at 8:41 am, and activated a request for a sight identification of the plane," said Captain André Hesse of the Luftwaffe to The Local.

According to Hesse, two Phantom F4F jets on a training flight were ordered off their route and redirected to the plane to carry out a sight identification.

"This involves getting close enough to identify the plane – and to take a look in the cockpit to see whether anything unusual is happening. They have to come relatively close to do this," Hesse told The Local.

For several nerve-racking minutes the pilots struggled to regain contact before finally getting the radio to work again while the two fighters flew alongside the charter plane.

Hesse also told The Local that Luftwaffe planes must react within 15 minutes to any such request as part of the Nato integrated air defence system covering Europe.

“The Phantoms escorted the plane from 8:45 until 9:00, when radio contact with air traffic control was re-established,” said Hesse.

According to Alexander Huber, it isn’t that uncommon for planes to temporarily lose radio contact and he maintains that passengers were never at risk.

“It has happened before, both to us and to other companies. All countries have different routines as to how fast they deploy their air force to check out the situation. It differs from country to country,” Huber said.

The jet plane, a Boeing 737-800, is currently on its way back to Gothenburg from Mallorca.

“When it arrives back to Sweden we will make a full investigation into why it lost contact with air traffic control,” Huber told The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

02:17 July 26, 2012 by Eagle63
Wow, do the Germans still use the old F4 Phantom..? That was a great plane btw....
08:01 July 26, 2012 by bsutemp112
Several air forces still do (including Greece and Turkey within NATO), though many of them, such as the Luftwaffe's, have been upgraded. I think the Germans are retiring them this year now that more Eurofighters have come into service, however.
09:10 July 26, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
'For several nreve-racking minutes the pilots struggled to regain contact before finally getting the radio to work again while the two fighters flew alongside the charter plane'.

One wonders how long the pilots had to regain radio contact before the missiles would have been launched, or would the missilies only have been launched it the plane took a collision course with a populated or military target other than an airport.

One imagines a system where commerical pilots are informed of secret set of hand signals to make from the cockpit to signal if things are okay or not okay (with many sets of signals to choose from for every flight), and that the fighter pilots could then be informed of the set of signals in use for that particular flight, in order to properly interpret the pilots hand signals.

Or if things are okay, could one of the pilots not walk back into the cabin and grab a sattellite phone to alert some central air traffic control office not to shoot them down? Some planes have satellite phones on the back of every chair, and most have with no phones, but one imagines that each plane should be equipped with at least one for emergency use.
10:17 July 26, 2012 by Prestonrobsun
Same near London yesterday. A Thomas cook plane 'lost contact' and a Typhoon was scambled. My, it was noisy!

Some threat we are not aware of?
20:10 July 26, 2012 by jack sprat
Most likely simply forgot what frequency they needed to be on, as they normally change a few times during the course of a flight.
15:21 July 27, 2012 by BillyH
Thats what happens, if you go bombing countries with teddies, we won't stand for it.
18:39 July 27, 2012 by james7
Prestonrobsun, Yes, the threat is muslims flying planes into buildings, something everyone should be aware of.
21:37 July 28, 2012 by AirForceGuy
Eagle63, that was my first reaction too. The Luftwaffe is STILL flying F-4s? I flew them last in 1981. That was 30+ years ago!
22:31 July 31, 2012 by Tiny Red Ant
Lesson learned. Make sure that all electronics are properly working before take off.
15:38 August 3, 2012 by capt
Usually happens when air traffic control fails to hand-off the aircraft to the next sector as it passes out of radio range, The pilots don't realize this until the frequency has been "too quite" for a few minutes.
21:11 August 3, 2012 by sunnchilde
Fly the friendly skies...you too can almost be blown out of the sky because of an unfortunately-timed system malfunction.
00:48 August 9, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
"I think the Germans are retiring them this year now that more Eurofighters have come into service, however. "

Indeed.

They also had a bunch of MiG 29´s and Hinds etc. coming from the GDR reunion. The MiGs got sold off for symbolic 1 € and so did the Hind choppers I believe.
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