A TAP flight carrying 149 passengers from Lisbon to Copenhagen was intercepted by a French fighter plane over Nantes on Friday “due to its failure to respond to messages from air traffic control”.
The extraordinary incident shows the level of tension in France as a result of the latest terrorist atrocities in Nice.
A source from TAP has explained that delays in receiving communications can be “commonplace” at this time of year when Europe’s skies fill with planes. But due to France’s national state of emergency, the authorities were taking no chances.
National tabloid Correio da Manhã claims TAP’s flight 752 was “at risk for nine long minutes” in which the fighter plane and other commercial flights in the area sent repeated messages to the cockpit.
Carlos Costa, vice-president of the Portuguese association of airline pilots, blamed the scare on what he called “strong congestion in the air at this time of year” with many changes of frequency which make communications difficult.
The interception of a civilian airline by fighter jets is “not normal”, he told CM – and even in the context of terror alerts, it is “not a situation that happens easily”.
As it was, the fighter plane returned to base once it received assurances from flight TAP 752 that its messages “were starting to appear” and that the flight was progressing as planned to the Danish capital.