Jet Airways Boeing 777-300 Gets German Fighter Escort After Communications Lost Due to Error.
Jet Airways flight 9W-118, a Boeing 777-300 registered as VT-JEX, was intercepted by a pair of German Luftwaffe Typhoons as a security precaution over Germany on Thursday, February 16, after radio communications with the airliner were briefly lost.
The Typhoons were diverted to the intercept mission while already airborne according to a report in The Aviation Herald by Simon Hradecky.
Dramatic video of the security intercept at 36,000 feet was captured from another airline aircraft, likely a British Airways flight according to unconfirmed information. The video shows the Jet Airways B777 flying normally as first one, then a second Typhoon fly up behind the aircraft. The first Luftwaffe pilot approaches the big Boeing 777 from the same altitude and offset to the airliner’s left, possibly enabling the Typhoon pilot to make an attempt at visual contact with the occupants of the cockpit as a precaution prior to any other contact attempt.
At the 1:59 point in the video the first Typhoon can be seen to rock his wings, a universal aviation signal from International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules, Annex 2-Appendix A, 2.1:
“DAY-Rocking wings from a position slightly above and ahead of, and normally to the left of, the intercepted aircraft and, after acknowledgement, a slow level turn, normally to the left, on to the desired heading.”
Once the first German Typhoon arrives Jet Airways flight 9W-118 must have made a radio frequency change and established voice communications since he does not respond with a reciprocal wing rocking.
The reason for the incident was a perception and/or ergonomic error when the flight was handed off from air traffic controllers in Bratislava to Prague Center ATC. Normally controllers will tell an airline pilot “Contact Prague Center ATC on frequency 132 decimal 89. Good day.”
Then the crew makes the radio frequency change manually.
If the crew makes an error dialing in the frequency correctly, normally done on the center radio console by rotating an indexed knob with a corresponding digital display, or they mis-quote the radio frequency- or both- then they may inadvertently arrive on the incorrect radio channel.
An investigation today, Feb. 20, revealed that the correct radio frequency information for the flight was transmitted by air traffic controllers during the hand-off from Bratislava to Prague controllers at 15:53 Zulu time. The loss of communication lasted a total of 33 minutes according to the report from today’s investigation.
The Jet Airways flight was en route to London’s Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom from Mumbai, India carrying 330 passengers and 15 crew members. Once the intercept incident shown in the video concluded the flight continued normally.
Air intercept incidents are not unusual.
Another similar incident, this one potentially more significant, occurred on Friday, Feb. 17 when U.S. Air Force F-15s from Homestead AFB were launched and went supersonic over Florida in response to an aircraft that approached U.S. President Donald Trump’s resort home Mar-a-Lago near Palm Beach Florida.
FAA restrictions and Notice to Airmen warn general aviation and airline aircraft away from a restricted airspace surrounding the President of the United States.