Two men were arrested on suspicion of endangering an aircraft after a Manchester-bound Pakistani passenger plane sounded a mid-air “security alert”,forcing Britain to scramble two fighter jets to escort the plane to the country’s designated counter-terrorism airport here today.
Two unidentified men are being held on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft and they have been removed from the plane,Essex Police said.
Two Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets were deployed alongside the Boeing 777 to escort the Pakistan International Airlines flight travelling from Lahore as it was diverted to Stansted,Britain’s designated counter-terrorism airport.
“Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby were launched today to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft within UK airspace; further details will be provided when known,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said.
The MoD has since said that it is now a police matter and its involvement in the incident is over.
Essex Police said its officers are responding after “an incident” occurred on Flight PK 709.
There are understood to have been 297 passengers on board,besides 11 crew members,who were travelling from Lahore.
The plane was heading west towards Manchester when it was suddenly re-routed near York and headed back out to the North Sea,before travelling south to Stansted.
The airline has confirmed the diversion was for security reasons and the speculation so far is that it is a precautionary measure in response to an emergency signal.
The pilot,concerned about two disruptive passengers who had started shouting,asked Air Traffic Control to divert to Stansted as a precaution.
Their threats are believed to have been serious enough to call in RAF jets,which are in a constant state of readiness at the Coningsby,Lincolnshire,base in the east of England.
It is understood the incident is not being treated as a terrorist incident and that Essex police are not liaising with counter-terrorism officers at this point.