Terror at 30,000 feet

原创 2004年10月14日 16:03:00
Terror at 30,000 feet


TORNADO jet fighters were scrambled yesterday to intercept a passenger plane after threats of a bomb on board, underlining the constant state of alert maintained by the UK’s security forces.

The RAF planes, armed with guns and air-to-air missiles, were called in by civilian controllers to escort an Olympic Airways flight travelling from Athens to New York’s JFK airport with 301 passengers and crew on board.

The passenger plane was re-routed to Stansted airport in Essex as part of a "full emergency", with escorting jets ready to bring the airliner down in the event of a 9/11-style hijacking.

All 290 passengers and 11 crew were evacuated safely from the Airbus 340 following the landing at 3:25pm.

The aircraft was then kept in a secure holding area where police search teams were checking for a suspect device and making sure that the plane was safe.

The dramatic chain of events was sparked when Ethnos, a Greek daily newspaper, received three anonymous telephone warnings, referring to Iraq.

Police sources in Greece said authorities immediately notified the pilot, who asked for a military escort. However, the airline said the scrambling of the RAF jets had been a British initiative.

A New York fireman involved in the rescue effort following the attacks on the Twin Towers was among the passengers. Robert Santandrea, 33, from Queens, told how the alert brought back memories.

"I was praying. I was a little nervous but everyone was very calm," said Mr Santandrea as he arrived at a hotel at Stansted with other passengers.

Artist Skye Ferranti, 31, of Soho, Lower Manhattan, said:

"It was very calm on the plane. Everyone seemed to stay calm until we landed and then the atmosphere changed.

"British security men armed with machine guns came on board and told everyone to leave their bags and get off as quickly as possible."

According to a tape of the bomb threats issued by Ethnos, one caller said: "Flight 411 Olympic for America has a bomb for Iraq."

In a second call, a voice that sounded like a different person said: "Are you listening? Flight 411 Olympic for America, bomb. America will see. Six o’clock message for you." One of the calls instructed the newspaper’s phone operator to pick up a proclamation from a rubbish bin in Solomou Street in central Athens. Police said a search had found nothing.

Last night, airline officials said the search of the aircraft would take several hours, after which passengers would continue their trip on the same plane.

A spokesman for Essex ambulance services said about 30 passengers had been treated for a variety of conditions, which were "not serious".

Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable, Liam Brigginshaw, said officers were working methodically to check a "substantial amount" of hold baggage and five tonnes of cargo which the plane was carrying. "We are not dealing with anything like a hostage situation or a terrorist attack," he said.

"We are working with sensible procedures to ensure the safety of passengers, the aircraft and the airport, which is still running with no disruption to its operation."

Leonard Vlamis, the chief executive of Olympic Airways, said the captain and authorities in the UK and the US were notified of the threat.

He said: "We were told to land at Stansted. The passengers were calm and they were evacuated safely. There was no problem inside the flight - everything was normal."

The flight had left Athens at 12:15pm local time and was due to arrive in New York at around 4pm local time.

George Yannakoulias, the plane’s captain, said: "We are all safe and well. Tell everyone that we are feeling fine."

Greece sent no troops to Iraq, but did not object to the use of a US air base on its soil to support the war. Public sentiment strongly opposed the US-led invasion.

Mr Vlamis said the airline had outlined its "strict" security measures to the authorities, which included screening all passengers and baggage and checking the aircraft by police and sniffer dogs at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos airport.

The aircraft was diverted to Stansted because it is the designated emergency landing ground, with facilities and trained personnel on hand. Its layout enables aircraft to be taken to corners of the site far from potential hazards.

The incident is the latest in a series in which aircraft have been escorted by military jets. These include an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Boston, which was diverted to Nashville in May after a note containing a bomb threat was found in one of the aircraft’s toilets.

In UK airspace, military jets have been called only once before to escort a passenger aircraft when a New Year’s Eve flight was intercepted over the Irish Republic on its way to Heathrow in what proved to be a false alarm.

1.scramble 抢夺,截取 本文意为:To take off with all possible haste, as to intercept enemy aircraft.
TORNADO jet fighters 狂风战斗机
3. intercept 中途阻止,拦截,截取
4. RAF 英国皇家空军 Royal Air Force
5. escort 护卫,护送
6. Essex 艾斯克斯 (英城市)
7. in the event of 如果。。。发生 本文意思是 如果类似于911的劫机事件发生,就把它打落
9.hold 持有,保存
10. hostage 人质

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