February 5, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Why Greek F-16s were escorting a Ryanair plane

Greek F-16 fighter jets took off on Sunday afternoon to escort a Ryanair Boeing 737 aircraft to Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens after reports of a bomb on board.

Ryanair flight FR6385 had previously departed Katowice in Poland for Athens with 192 passengers on board. After departure, the crew received a message about a bomb on board the aircraft. When it became known that the bomb had been planted, all ground and air protocols were activated, in particular protocol “Renegade”. It was created after the September 11 attacks and is activated in the event of a high and irreversible risk of hijacking civilian aircraft. The essence of this protocol is that fighters immediately fly out to intercept a “suspicious” aircraft and forcibly lead it over the sea or uninhabited territories, being ready at any moment to shoot down a passenger aircraft if there are signs that they intend to use it as a huge projectile as it was in the USA.

Information about the bomb appeared after takeoff, and then an alarm was declared at NATO headquarters. Hungarian fighters and Greek F-16s were immediately ordered to escort the aircraft to its landing. First, two Hungarian combat aircraft took off to intercept the Boeing 737, in which there were 192 passengers, then they were replaced by two Greek F-16 fighters. While military vehicles were “escorting” a passenger plane to the Greek airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”, large police and army forces, as well as emergency services, were being drawn there.

For landing, the aircraft was allocated a special remote area. As the passengers told reporters, they understood that something was wrong, but did not know what exactly. When the plane landed, everyone turned on their mobile phones, and only then, from the news and correspondence with relatives and friends, did they find out what kind of trouble they were in. Passengers had to sit in the landing plane for another hour while police sappers with dogs examined the outside of the car and luggage. After that, the passengers were released, and the cabin inspection began.

Some time later, the Greek police issued a statement saying that nothing suspicious was found on board. It is not yet clear what prompted the crew to report the explosive device to the ground during the flight.

“What we had yesterday was tangible proof that protocols flight safety are working,” said the aeronautical engineer Phaidon Karayosyphidis on ERT about the thriller with a plane from Poland, which warned about bomb and headed to Eleftherios Venizelosand this turned out to be fake, says ERT.

As you can imagine, we are living in much more sinister times since September 11, and airspace is not only controlled, but thoroughly guarded. Every country in Europe has patrol aircraft. Why. If the aircraft has not submitted a flight plan, it must be checked. In case he has submitted a flight plan, he must follow the procedures exactly. He must always be in touch. Must be responsive to traffic control. If none of this happens, two fighters appear, NATO activates them automatically, – he said. – Greek F-16 were at the end, because when the plane was flying over Hungary, it was accompanied by Hungarian planes. Then he flew over Serbia. Serbia is not part of NATO, and he passed unaccompanied. And then the Greek fighters, since Greece is responsible for maintaining order in neighboring countries, including the Republic of North Macedonia. They entered Skopje airspace and from there began escorting the aircraft. We are doing the same for Bulgaria. We are doing the same for Albania. They accompanied him, and the planes there two reasons: aboutbottom help or control. The pilot may not communicate. They have ways of communicating. In-second, in case they need to intervene. Until this happened. In the case of flightHelios” we were very, very close to shooting down a plane that was a danger to Attica.”

Mr. Karayosyphidis said that from what has been made public, this has never happened, but we must be sure that if there is a problem, a NATO fighter will come to the rescue. Renegade is when the aircraft does not respond to the demands of ground services. He finally said that “in other European countries, policing is not just about big cities. In France, for example, and in other countries, a big problem is nuclear power plants. There is controlled airspace that any aircraft, big or small, will invade and that is literally an excuse to get shot down. In other words, if this plane had approached such a zone, it would have been shot down.”

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