Hundreds of passengers had to be diverted mid- flight over Ireland to allow a Garda helicopter to chase armed robbers yesterday.
Air traffic controllers were forced to clear the flight path into Dublin Airport so airborne gardaí could pursue two men involved in a shopping centre hold-up.
All incoming flights were ordered to go into a “holding pattern” — circling outside the designated zone — while three passenger planes diverted to Shannon to refuel.
They included two Dublin-bound Aer Lingus services, one from London Gatwick, with 146 people onboard, and a flight from Brussels, which had 137 passengers onboard.
A Ryanair flight from Las Palmas also diverted to Shannon.
After refuelling, they returned to Dublin, about an hour-and-a-half behind schedule.
Another three Aer Lingus passenger flights — from Heathrow, Paris, and Dusseldorf — were forced to remain in the skies for an additional 20 minutes before they could safely attempt landing.
A Dublin Airport spokesman said the gardaí had requested helicopter priority from air traffic control to allow them to follow the armed raiders.
“Ordinarily this would not be an issue but it just happened to be in the exact location of the incoming flight path,” he said.
The airborne Garda mission followed the hold- up of a cash-in-transit van at the Clare Hall Shopping Centre, about 8km from Dublin Airport, at about 10.30am.
Investigating officers said one man — believed to be armed with a gun — approached and threatened a security worker who was delivering cash to the shopping centre before fleeing in a waiting car with an undisclosed sum of cash.
Acting on a tip-off about two men acting suspiciously on the nearby N32 — which runs between Clare Hall Shopping Centre and the airport — officers rushed to the scene.
Two men, aged 28 and 29, were arrested and are being held under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act at Coolock Garda station.
“In the course of the search, the Garda Dog Unit, armed units, and the Garda helicopter were utilised,” confirmed a Garda spokesman.
The cash was recovered and a firearm was also discovered close to the scene of the arrests in the city’s northside.
A burnt-out car similar to the one used in the robbery was located a short time later.
Detectives have appealed for witnesses or anyone with information to contact them.
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