February 5, 2024

Fighter jets escort a SAS Airbus A320neo to Manchester Airport



Due to a communications failure, the RAF scrambled fighter jets to escort the SAS Airbus A320neo over the North Sea. The escorted aircraft landed safely at its destination without danger to passengers. RAF Coningsby is one of two UK QRA stations that intercepted the aircraft. SIMPLEFLYING VIDEO OF THE DAY SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

The Royal Air Force (RAF) scrambled two Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets to escort an SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A320neo flying from Oslo, Norway, before the aircraft landed at its destination.

Communication failure

The SAS Airbus A320neo, registered as EI-SIU and operated by Irish-registered SAS Connect, was operating as flight SK4609 between Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL) and Manchester Airport (MAN) when radio contact was lost over the North Sea.

An airline spokesman told the BBC that the A320neo was forced to make an escorted landing after a brief loss of communications, and reiterated that passengers were not in danger, while a Ministry of Defence spokesman added that a Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft had departed from RAF Coningsby to intercept the plane.

Communications were resumed after a Eurofighter Typhoon encountered the A320neo over the North Sea. The fighter jets still escorted the A320neo to the airport and then back to base. The plane never issued a 7700 or 7600 squawk, the former being a common code for an in-flight emergency; the latter code is used if an aircraft loses air traffic control (ATC) communications, which could lead to controllers scrambling military aircraft.

SAS Airbus A320neo and two Eurofighter Typhoons spotted on radar off the UK coast

A delayed SAS Airbus A320neo has departed MAN for the return journey to OSL. Originally scheduled to depart at 12:50 local time (UTC +0), the jet now departs for the Norwegian capital at 14:50 and is now due to arrive at its destination at 17:25 local time.

2022-172 Related: Another scare: Fighter jets scramble after bomb threat on Ryanair flight to Greece A bomb threat was called during a flight from Katowice to Athens.

Scramble Machine

According to the RAF, RAF Coningsby is one of two RAF Rapid Reaction Alert (QRA) bases protecting the airspace over the UK – the other being RAF Lossiemouth. RAF Coningsby is home to two frontline and combat readiness squadrons and a training centre for Eurofighter Typhoon fighter pilots.

The service also highlighted that the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at RAF Bulmer monitors military and civilian radars, identifies potential threats and shares the Perceived Aerial Picture (RAP) with the National Air and Space Operations Centre (NASOC), home to RAF Headquarters.

NASOC then decides whether the threat is sufficient to scramble fighter jets and passes the order to the CRC at RAF Boulmer, which is in direct liaison with RAF Lossiemouth. Pilots at RAF Coningsby, where two Eurofighter Typhoons have been scrambled, are also ordered to remain in their fighter cockpits.

The RAF added that its air traffic controllers work with civilian air traffic controllers, namely NATS, the U.K.'s air traffic controller provider, to ensure the shortest route for its fighter jets to intercept the target aircraft. RAF controllers work out of the NATS-run Swanwick Centre.

EasyJet Airbus A320 cabin

Photo: Airbus

Passengers who break the rules can also cause an escorted landing, as in July 2022 when the Spanish Air Force (SASF) was forced to scramble an F-18 fighter jet in response to a traveller who joked that he was a member of the terrorist group Taliban. According to the BBC, the 18-year-old traveller later appeared in court in Spain over messages intercepted before his easyJet flight departed from London Gatwick Airport (LGW).

A British Airways Airbus A320neo preparing to land. Related: British Airways Airbus A320 intercepted by RAF Typhoon, but it wasn't an emergency Two RAF Typhoons took to the air for what appeared to be an emergency involving a British Airways Airbus A320neo.


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