Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bomb threat forces jet to land at Comox: Korean Air Boeing 777-200, HL7734, flight KE-72

A Korean Air flight bound for Seoul from Vancouver International Airport with 134 passengers on board was intercepted by two U.S. Air Force fighter jets and forced to land in Comox Tuesday because of a bomb threat phoned to a U.S. call centre for the airline.

The plane was sitting at Comox Airport. Its crew of 13, headed by Canadian pilot Stow Andrew Chisholm, put the total at 147 people on board.

The passengers and crew were taken off the plane and into a hangar where they are being screened in a safe location, said 19 Wing Comox spokesman Lt. Trevor Reid.

"[Our] priority remains with the safety of the passengers and support to the RCMP, who are the lead agency for response to this situation," Reid said Tuesday evening. "Wing emergency personnel have responded to the location and secured the aircraft in accordance with standard procedures."

"There were no obvious injuries suffered by anyone on board and everyone is being taken care of," said Comox Mayor Paul Ives. Police, fire crews and B.C. Ambulance paramedics were at the scene.

"It's too early to tell if they are staying the night or headed back to Vancouver," Ives said, adding that 19 Wing Comox had enough space and sleeping quarters to accommodate them.

The threat was received around 3 p.m., about 25 minutes after takeoff from Vancouver.

The plane was diverted while it was over Haida Gwaii. Korean Air flight 72 was escorted into Comox at about 5: 30 p.m. by U.S. air force F-15 fighter jets scrambled from Portland, Oregon, the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said.

"Twenty-five minutes after take off from Vancouver International Airport, the U.S. call centre received a call that there was a threat on board the aircraft," Penny Pfaelzer, a spokeswoman for Korean Air, said in a statement.

"After discussion with the related departments, we decided to turn the aircraft."

On Monday, Korean Air flight 72 was delayed for two hours as authorities swept the plane, said James Koh, a Vancouver-based regional manager for the airline. "The RCMP and the Vancouver airport security checked our plane, but there were no problems, so our flight departed with a two-hour delay."

Military and commercial flights share the 10,000-foot runway at Comox Airport and military personnel operate the air control tower.

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