A bomb threat against a Virgin Airlines jumbo jet with 314 people aboard caused four Canadian jet fighters to escort the flight to an unscheduled landing yesterday in Newfoundland.
Captain John Pulchny of the Department of National Defence said the four F-18s were sent up by the North American Aerospace Defence Command in the United States under a heightened state of security after last week’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The Boeing 747 flying from Heathrow Airport in London to New York’s JFK International Airport was diverted to a commercial-military airport in Goose Bay in northern Newfoundland, 550 miles northeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman Helen Escott.
Escott said the airline notified Canadian authorities of the threat and the plane landed safely.
She refused to provide details of the bomb threat but said it was external instead of from someone on the flight.
Pulchny said Canada’s transport ministry notified the Goose Bay airport about the situation.
‘‘We did not know what the emergency was on board,’’ he said.
He called the reaction by the jet fighters part of the ‘‘added security posture’’ since terrorists hijacked four US planes and crashed three of them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, killing and injuring thousands.
The passengers would remain overnight in Goose Bay while the RCMP investigates the plane, Pulchny said.
Airports in Newfoundland often receive unscheduled landings by trans-Atlantic flights that have equipment problems or security threats, such as bomb scares or air rage incidents.