Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dutch security forces surround aircraft in mistaken belief the passenger plane had been hijacked

  • Supersonic F-16 fighters scrambled to intercept jet
  • They escorted it to the ground and it was surrounded by security staff, ambulances and photographers
  • National broadcaster made phone contact with passenger to ask if there was a hostage situation
  • Dutch air traffic control suspicious when pilot failed to make radio contact after entering Dutch airspace
  • Incident came just hours after airport partly closed because of WWII bomb scare
  • Plane was carrying 180 holidaymakers from Malaga to Schiphol

A plane with 180 passengers on board was today surrounded by security forces who mistakenly believed a hijacker was on board.

Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled by the Dutch Defence Ministry to intercept the airbus, which was bound for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport from Malaga.

They went supersonic in their efforts to catch up - but when the plane landed, security forces discovered that there was no hijacking, and the confusion was down to miscommunication.

Police said the pilot had failed to make radio contact after entering Dutch airspace, arousing suspicion with air traffic control that the plane had been hijacked.

Security staff, ambulances and photographers - believing this was a hostage situation - surrounded the plane after it landed around 1.5km from the main terminal.

Dutch military police said: 'The plane has landed at Schiphol. There is a possible hijacking and the police have surrounded the plane.

'We are trying to make contact with the people in the plane.'

National broadcaster NOS made phone contact with a passenger on board who told terrified listeners that the plane was calm and there was no hostage situation.

A spokesperson for Spain's Vueling airline later revealed the reports that the plane had been hijacked were due to miscommunication between the pilot and the control tower.

The airline said on Twitter on Wednesday that 'Amsterdam's protocol for security was activated owing to a temporary loss of communication between the plane and air traffic control.'

National Dutch broadcaster NOS spoke by phone with a person it identified as one of the passengers on board who said that the plane was calm and there was no hostage situation.

The Vueling plane was parked at a remote corner of Schiphol, away from the main terminal, surrounded by security personnel and several ambulances.

The incident came just hours after the airport had to partly close down because of a World War II bomb scare during excavations.

Authorities evacuated parts of the airport after workers found the unexploded bomb, forcing airlines to delay and cancel some flights.

The German bomb was discovered buried underground near the transport hub's busy Terminal C, which handles flights to most major European destinations, the Dutch Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Schiphol cleared and closed Terminal C, parts of Terminal D and one landing strip, an airport spokeswoman said.

A handful of European flights were cancelled, while several dozen were delayed, she added.

The 500kg explosive, uncovered during construction work, would be taken to a safe location and dismantled, the ministry said.

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