Two loud bangs were heard across northern Italy when two Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons accelerated through supersonic speed to intercept a civilian airliner that failed to respond to the ATC (Air Traffic Control). Routine procedure.
What we can consider a routine intercept made the news in Italy today after the loud sonic booms of two Italian jets in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) were heard across northwestern Italy. The two Eurofighter Typhoons, belonging to the QRA cell based at Istrana airbase, in northeastern Italy, were scrambled by the CAOC (Combined Air Operation Center) of Torrejon, Spain, after an Air France Boeing 777-300, registration F-GZNF and flying as AF671, failed to respond to the ATC calls. The two Typhoons intercepted the airliner near Aosta, close to the French border, managed to establish a radio contact with the crew and requested the French “wide body” to perform a 360° turn (clearly visible in the track recorded by Flightradar24) in order to verify that the aircraft was not being hijacked.
After the B777 complied with the interceptors request, the Italian Typhoons handed over the civilian aircraft to the French Air Defense and ATC, and returned home.
This is not the first time a civil flight experiencing a radio failure is intercepted by the Italian Air Force QRA jets that “break” the sound barrier in the process. Supersonic intercepts are routine, when needed, all around the world. However, this morning’s incident sent the Italian media into a frenzy, especially after emergency agencies telephone switch boards started receiving reports of a large bang or “explosion” and some schools and a courthouse were even evacuated for safety reasons.
Nothing special then, just “the sound of freedom”…