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Scramble scandal

with 3 comments

An RAF Typhoon fighter was scrambled, no doubt at a cost of thousands of pounds, to ‘escort’ a Qatar Airways Airbus into Manchester Airport today after the crew received a threat about a “device” on board, the Telegraph reported (5 August 2014).

In what turned out to be a suspected hoax, Greater Manchester Police launched a “full emergency” response as officers did not “know how genuine this threat is”.

The plane involved was a A330-300 with 282 people on board and the RAF plane was a Typhoon from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

One might ask, what exactly scrambling fighter jet(s) could achieve?

The Typhoon pilot would have the ability to (i) visually inspect the airliner exterior, (ii) visually signal to the Airbus pilots, or (iii) shoot down the airliner. So which of those abilities were useful in today’s incident?

Answer: none of them. In general, scrambling fighter jets to ‘escort’ airliners is completely pointless.


Written by beleben

August 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Aviation

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3 Responses

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  1. If there is a suspected bomb on board and the passenger plane starts to deviate away from it’s logged flight plan, then the fighter pilot would indicate to the passenger plane pilot that he should slow down, drop his under-carriage and head for the nearest available airfield. Failure to comply would indicate that the passenger pilot was “acting under orders”, in which case the fighter pilot could (will?) be ordered to down the passenger plane “when safe to do so”.


    August 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    • There doesn’t appear to have been any suggestion that anyone was in the cabin, other than the pilots.


      August 6, 2014 at 9:28 am

      • Scrambling fighter jets is a standard procedure if there is any doubt about the security of the flight. Bombs on board, or the threat of them, are not simply a threat because they are capable of blowing the flight out of the sky. On 9/11 the hijackers were heard on CVR and (inadvertently, they thought they were speaking to the cabin) broadcasting to ATC that they had bombs on board and they used this threat to prevent the passengers and crew thinking about taking the aircraft back. As a result it’s only obvious to view any threat as a possible precursor to a full-on hijacking attempt; the presence of (and knowledge that they will be scrambled) would help to deter these when they know that they wouldn’t be able to use the aircraft as a missile.

        I did hear somewhere that the Eurofighter in this situation may not have actually been equipped with offensive weaponry but under a real situation this would not be an issue. On 9/11 fighter jets were (eventually) scrambled without offensive weaponry and their pilots were aware that they would have to ram the aircraft out of the sky if the ultimate sanction were required.


        August 8, 2014 at 10:26 pm

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