An easyJet flight was at the centre of a terrifying hijack scare when two fighter jets were sent to intercept the plane – after air traffic controllers lost all contact.
Two Eurofighters were scrambled from a military base to escort the passenger jet as it flew over the Mediterranean – because a technical glitch meant controllers feared it had been seized by terrorists.
The Captain and co-pilot – as well as the passengers – were said to have been ‘shocked’ when the Italian fighter jets suddenly appeared alongside their aircraft as they were unaware of the security fears.
The mid-air drama took place after the easyJet flight left Palermo on Sunday.
Midway through the flight air traffic controllers were suddenly unable to contact the crew as it flew over the sea 40km from Genoa.
Two Eurofighters were scrambled from a military base to escort the passenger jet as it flew over the Mediterranean – because a technical glitch meant controllers feared it had been seized by terrorists (file image)
When repeated calls to the cockpit went unanswered, controllers triggered an emergency response and two Eurofighters were sent to intercept the Airbus A319.
Radio contact was re-established after 11 minutes, and the pilots were able to reassure controllers they were in command of the jet. It then continued on its scheduled flight to Milan, Italy.
An investigation has been launched into the incident but it is thought the crew had switched to the wrong frequency while switching over from contact with Rome air traffic control.
The crew should have switched to a frequency being used by controllers at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, their final destination.
Flight crews on other planes in the Milan area heard the frantic calls from controllers as they desperately tried to contact the ‘lost jet’.
One said: ‘Ten minutes or so may not seem a long time, but in aviation terms it is an exceptionally long time to be out of radio contact.
‘The controllers would have thought that someone had taken over the cockpit or both the crew had become incapacitated.
An investigation has been launched into the incident but it is thought the crew had switched to the wrong frequency while switching over from contact with Rome air traffic control. Pictured, an Italian Eurofighter Typhoon jet
‘They would have had no choice but to inform the military. It is standard procedure when a plane fails to make contact that military jets are sent up to investigate.’
The easyJet flight landed safely at Malpensa Airport just over half an hour after the incident began and passengers were unaware of the mid air drama.
Last month a Ryanair flight was ‘hijacked’ when it had to divert to Belarus after falsely being told there was a bomb on board.
A fighter jet was scrambled to to force the plane – bound for Lithuania – to land.
The captain and five crew of Ryanair flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius were later put under armed guard after diverting the plane for a fake bomb threat that was staged to allow the Belarus government to capture an opposition journalist among the 126 passengers.
Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested on landing.
The incident was described as ‘state sponsored hijacking’ and condemned by worldwide leaders.
easyJet have been contacted for comment.