Mystery at 30,000 ft

BY MATTHEW CORRIGAN

What we know:

On Tuesday afternoon an Airbus A330 operated by Pakistan International Airlines was intercepted by RAF Typhoon fighters over British airspace. Originating in Lahore, the airliner was en route to London Heathrow when it was diverted to Stansted Airport in Essex. It landed without incident at 14:50 and was held away from the airport terminal. Police officers boarded the aircraft and removed a man, who was apparently wanted for an unrelated matter.

Essex Police later confirmed a 52 year old had been arrested for fraud offences and was being transferred to London for questioning. They stated that the incident was “not believed to be a hijack situation or terror matter” and that the diversion was due to a disruptive passenger.

A witness who had been on board the plane said there had been no disruption during the flight.

In their own statement, PIA claimed that UK authorities had been made aware of a “vague” threat which had been issued anonymously.

Clear?

Good, perhaps you can explain it to me.

Or perhaps not.

The incident, or at least the way it has been reported, raises several questions.

I’ve seen the Royal Air Force Quick Reaction Alert in action. A few years ago I watched open-mouthed as a Typhoon shepherded an airliner into Manchester Airport. It was a dramatic, shocking event, even to an uninvolved witness on the ground. It later transpired that some poor chap aboard the aircraft had lost his mind, claiming he had a bomb. Believing this presented a threat, the captain contacted the authorities and the air force was scrambled.

The lads and lasses flying these jets do a first-class job of keeping us all safe. The responsibility is every bit as awesome as it was when their forebears roared aloft in Hurricanes and Spitfires to fend off the might of the Luftwaffe. They are the best in the world at what they do; they deserve our deepest gratitude.

But would they really be used for a ‘disruptive passenger’? What on earth could a Typhoon do about that?

And then there is Stansted. Why Stansted? The airport famously has various facilities in place to effectively deal with hijackings. Aircraft can be held in isolation well away from terminal buildings and other airport operations. Stansted has played host to several such events, most recently in 2000 when nine Afghans seized an airliner and held several passengers and crew hostage for almost five days.

Could it be that there was indeed a threat made against the aircraft, and that the powers-that-be wanted it in the appropriate place?

Who knows? I certainly don’t. And I probably never will.

It certainly seems as though someone, somewhere doesn’t want the story known. I confess to being a little torn here. I have a very healthy respect for national security. If something needs to be kept out of the public domain, so be it. Simply put: I understand and accept that the great unwashed don’t need to know about everything that happens. If the authorities had issued a stern ‘no comment’ statement on those grounds, I’d have overcome my natural nosiness and accepted it.

But there was no such statement. Instead the national broadcaster reported a fact-free half story full of holes and contradiction that was wide open to conjecture. It was dangerously close to being ‘fake news’, creating a handy vacuum for the conspiracy theorists to fill with speculation.

While instances like this don’t exactly give credence to Mr Trump’s bizarre idea that a mainstream media intent on following its own agenda is engaged in cover-ups, they certainly fuel the fire.

Something most definitely did play out in the skies over populous South East England on Tuesday. Whatever it was, it should either have been reported properly or not at all.

Matthew Corrigan is a Country Squire Guest Writer and a superb author whose excellent novel OSPREY shines a satirical light on a dodgy politician with a flying wind turbine scam. His books can be found here