24 May, 2013

Men arrested after RAF jet is scrambled to escort Pakistan Airlines passenger plane to Stansted

Men arrested after RAF jet is scrambled to escort Pakistan Airlines passenger plane to Stansted
According to one of the passengers, the aircraft's cabin crew said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit

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Air Transport

Two men have been arrested at Stansted today after a passenger plane heading to Manchester airport was diverted to Stansted by an RAF Typhoon jet following reports of threats on board.

The men aged 30 and 41, were arrested by police on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft and taken for questioning by Essex police.

According to one of the passengers, the aircraft's cabin crew said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit.

Umari Nauman told Sky News: "The cabin crew informed us that basically they tried to come into the cockpit a few times and because they had been asked not to do that they got into a bit of an argument with the crew and made a few threats."

he said all the passengers had been ordered to leave their possessions on board before leaving the plane.

Ms Nauman also said helicopters escorted the aircraft before landing.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the Typhoon jet, from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, escorted the diverted Pakistan International Airlines flight from Manchester to Stansted Airport.

The airline had said the decision to divert the flight to Stansted was taken for security reasons, and the airport has said no one was hurt in the incident.

Pakistan International Airlines PK709 was the scheduled 0935 Lahore to Manchester flight.

Manchester Airport has confirmed there were 297 passengers on board.

It is understood that the incident happened around 10 minutes before the plane was due to land in Manchester at 2pm.

The aircraft was re-routed and sent back out to the North Sea before travelling to Stansted.

An Essex police spokeswoman told Sky News: "An incident has occurred on an aircraft. Police and partners are responding," and a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "A Typhoon aircraft has been launched to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft within UK airspace."

When the aircraft landed safely it was isolated - a measure that could be precautionary. It remained on the north side of the airport, while flights carried on as normal.

The very same plane on the very same flight - from Lahore to Manchester - had to be diverted to Stansted on September 7 2011 due to a bomb scare.

Mahmouda Aslam, 50, from Prestwich, Manchester was at the airport awaiting her husband, Mohammed on the flight.

After speaking to her husband on his mobile, she said: "I said, 'Are you alright? Are you scared?' He said, 'We are all OK. The flight is full of police.'"

"They are all just sat there, they can't even get out of the chairs."

At Stansted Zohaib Sattar, 24, from Huddersfield, was waiting for family members. Having spoken to his father, Abdul Sattar, 57, who was on the plane, he said: "They have taken two people off the plane and are checking the plane all over.

"The rest are just sat there waiting for further information.

"My father said there was no warning or threat, all of a sudden the plane just turned around."

An MoD spokesman said the incident was now a police matter and "our involvement is over".

He said Typhoon jets can be scrambled after the pilot or crew of a passenger aircraft sends out an emergency signal.

He said: "The purpose of going up is to investigate what the situation is. Often when a Quick Reaction Alert aircraft is launched the details are not known, but it is known that a signal has been sent.

"Part of the purpose of sending a Typhoon up is to have a look and see what they can see."

An airport source said it was thought a fight led to the aircraft being diverted.

He said: "Yeah, it sounds like it from what I have seen and heard.

"That is what it sounds like but it caused sufficient concern for the crew to ask for assistance and report it."

It is unknown if the passengers will be flown to Manchester or transferred on a coach.

The MoD would not confirm how serious the incident was.


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