RAF jets 'safely escort' plane with communication difficulties into Birmingham airport

RAF jets 'safely escort' plane with communication difficulties into Birmingham airport

A plane from Bucharest was escorted into Birmingham airport by RAF fighter jets after it experienced communication difficulties.

The private plane, which contained three crew and no passengers, was met by two Typhoon jets scrambled from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, and a Voyager aircraft launched from Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

They escorted the Saab 340 plane once it entered UK air space, Birmingham Airport said.

Its runway was closed for about half an hour while the freight-carrying plane landed just after 7.30am.

One plane from Dublin was diverted to East Midlands Airport as a result.

An RAF spokesman said: "The Royal Air Force can confirm that Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire were launched this morning on a quick reaction alert mission to intercept a civilian aircraft that had lost communications.

"The aircraft was safely escorted to Birmingham International Airport."

A Birmingham Airport spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that a private Saab 340 aircraft inbound from Bucharest to Birmingham and carrying three crew encountered communication difficulties during a flight earlier today.

"In accordance with normal operating procedures the aircraft was intercepted by military jets on arrival into UK airspace and was escorted up to its scheduled arrival into Birmingham."

The RAF has Typhoon pilots on standby 24 hours a day to defend UK air space.

Squadrons are based at RAF Coningsby, covering the south of the country, and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray to cover the north.

Quick Reaction Alert crews can be launched within minutes to intercept aircraft which have caused concern.

This can be because they are Russian military aircraft, or civilian planes which have stopped communicating with air traffic control, are not following their flight plan or have sent an emergency signal.

On some occasions pilots are given permission to fly at supersonic speeds, which may result in a sonic boom, to reach the aircraft as soon as possible.

Ministry of Defence figures show QRA were launched on 12 days in 2015, eight in response to Russian aircraft and four to investigate other planes.

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