The pilot of a Boeing 767 airliner flying from Israel to the United States got the scare of a lifetime Sunday. The flight crew was not aware that for approximately 10 minutes the radios on their aircraft were not working, and they were not in contact with air traffic control as they crossed over London. Imagine looking out your plane window and seeing two Typhoon fighter aircraft close enough to the plane that you could wave to the pilots.
That is precisely what happened on Sunday as the Royal Air Force scrambled two Typhoon interceptors with clearance to depart at faster than the speed of sound to intercept the non-communicating aircraft. The fighter jets, moving in unison, traveled so fast that a single sonic boom rippled across London early Sunday morning, awakening residents and causing mild concern.
The situation ended safely, though, as the pilot and flight crew managed to get into contact with the fighter jets using their GUARD frequency and had also already established contact with the London air traffic control tower. Upon initial contact, the pilot of the airliner did flash his landing lights acknowledging that he could see the fighter aircraft on his wingtips.
According to a report by The Times of Israel, the pilot described the incident as being a heart attack. Who can blame him? You don’t see traffic next to you flying over London. There was no report of damage to buildings or glassware, and at the end of the day, the pilot of the Boeing 767 applauded the rapid response of the RAF.
The flight was on its way from Israel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The plane was registered to california-based Pacific Air Corp. The aging aircraft, which was retired from El Al, had a minor communications glitch and the primary radios went down. As the fighter jets scrambled, the flight crew was already in the process of re-establishing communications.
Though it inevitably came as a shock for residents, this particular mishap showcases the RAF’s ability to respond to airborne threats over the nation’s capital, and they should take great pride in their speed and professionalism. It is safe to say that had this been an actual incident requiring force, they would most assuredly have provided the presence needed. Well done, chaps!