8 March 2002

Harriers intercept US airliner

By Paul Marston, Transport Correspondent

Two RAF fighters were sent to intercept an American airliner flying over southern England yesterday after it lost contact with air traffic control, prompting fears of a hijack.

The Continental Airlines aircraft, flying from Brussels to New York, failed to notify controllers when it entered British airspace off the Kent coast.

Staff at the new national control centre at Swanwick, near Southampton, tried unsuccessfully for 20 minutes to make contact.

They alerted the RAF, which sent two Harriers to observe the Continental aircraft, carrying 125 passengers and 11 crew.

On approach, they heard from the captain, saying that his radio had been malfunctioning and all was well on board.