Two Dutch F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept an Airbus passenger plane after a breakdown in radio communications triggered a hijacking alert at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Flight VY 8366, operated by the budget Spanish Vueling carrier, was travelling with 183 passengers from Malaga to Schiphol when it lost radio contact with Dutch air traffic control.
“We received news that a plane headed for the airport was accompanied by two F-16 fighters and no contact was possible. We were obliged to activate certain security protocols, said Martijn Peelen, a Dutch police spokesman.
“There was no communication with the crew at all.”
A Nato official confirmed that, “the scrambling of fighter jets was part of a standard emergency procedure after the plane failed to communicate.”
After being escorted over Dutch airspace to an emergency runway at the airport, the Spanish airliner made a safe landing and was boarded by armed military police before the hijack alert was lifted.
“After the negotiator spoke to the captain we were certain there were no hijackers on the plane,” said Mr Peelen.
The Vueling airline said the incident had resulted from a “misunderstanding” after the passenger jet made a manoeuvre and then could not be contacted by air traffic controllers.
“There was never any danger. There was a lack of communication between the pilot and the tower and the airport activated the security protocol,” said a spokesman.
A similar incident, involving the same flight, had occurred over France last year triggering the scrambling of a French Mirage 2000 fighter jet.
Passengers had no idea that their aircraft was at the centre of a hijacking alert or that they had been intercepted by Dutch warplanes.
“First we circled, then we landed and the pilot said there was no problem in the plane, but that there was a problem at the airport,” said Felice Roedema, a passenger.
“Everything is normal, everybody is relaxed as there’s nothing going on.”
The security alert came as part of Schiphol airport had already been evacuated with delays to flights after construction workers digging a trench unearthed a 1,100-pound German Second World War bomb. The bomb was safely removed by late afternoon.