British Sharm el-Sheikh flight in 'missile' incident

  • 7 November 2015
  • From the section UK
According to newspaper reports, the plane was forced to manoeuvre away from a rocket as it flew into Sharm el-Sheikh Image copyright EPA
Image caption According to newspaper reports, the plane was forced to manoeuvre away from a rocket as it flew into Sharm el-Sheikh

A UK passenger plane carrying 189 people had to take evasive action over Sharm el-Sheikh in August to reportedly avoid a missile.

A UK government inquiry concluded the incident was linked to routine military activity and was not a targeted attack.

But Egyptian officials say reports of a missile passing the Thomson Airways jet are inaccurate and it was not at risk.

Meanwhile, EasyJet says Britons still in Egypt after last week's plane crash could face a four-day wait to fly home.

A Russian plane - an Airbus A321 operated by Russian airline Metrojet - was flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it came down in Sinai on 31 October, killing all 224 people on board. Most of the victims were Russian.

All UK-bound planes from Sharm el-Sheikh were halted on Wednesday amid fears the passenger plane had been brought down by a bomb.

Flights restarted on Friday with increased security measures and continued on Saturday.

About 3,300 tourists have returned so far to the UK, but thousands of people remain stranded in the resort.

'Artillery practice'

The government has confirmed an investigation into the reported missile incident was carried out by the Department for Transport.

According to the Daily Mail, the plane was forced to manoeuvre away from a rocket as it flew into Sharm el-Sheikh, but Egypt's foreign ministry said the allegations were "completely inaccurate".

A spokesman said the incident had involved ground-to-ground firing at a military base a few miles from Sharm-el Sheikh airport, and that no plane had been in danger.

Aviation security experts told BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner it had involved artillery practice by the Egyptian army.

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Thomson has confirmed "an event" was reported by the crew of flight TOM 476 on 23 August.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Wreckage of Russian MetroJet Airbus A321 at the site of the crash in Sinai, Egypt

A spokesman said: "The DfT conducted a full investigation in conjunction with other UK government experts.

"After reviewing the details of the case, the investigation concluded that there was no cause for concern and it was safe to continue our flying programme to Sharm-el Sheikh."

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, aviation expert Alastair Rosenschein described the incident as "quite extraordinary".

He said: "I'm not sure that I buy the fact that it was a military exercise and that a missile passed to within a 1,000ft of an aircraft that was presumably on the correct flight path on the approach to land at Sharm el-Sheikh.

"It most certainly does not happen. I suspect that this is not the full story."

Image copyright AP
Image caption UK passengers who arrived on an EasyJet flight into Luton airport on Friday were handed bags of provisions, including bread and milk

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport said nine flights had left Sharm el-Sheikh for the UK on Saturday, carrying 1,945 passengers.

These were:

  • Thomas Cook flight MT1627 to Gatwick
  • Thomson flight TOM717 to Bristol
  • Thomson flight TOM895 to Manchester
  • Monarch flight ZB8009 to Manchester
  • Easyjet flight EZY9767 to Luton
  • Easyjet flight EZY9320 to Luton
  • British Airways flight BA2561 to Gatwick
  • Monarch flight ZB685 to Manchester
  • Thomas Cook flight MT270P/2625 to Manchester

Only eight of 29 scheduled flights were able to depart on Friday, carrying just over 1,400 passengers.

The remaining 21 flights were cancelled by the Egyptian authorities because of the build up of passengers and luggage.

Britons are being allowed to travel home with hand baggage only; hold luggage is to be flown back separately.

Media captionPassengers arriving back in Glasgow on Friday night described chaotic scenes at the Egyptian airport

A UK government spokesman said: "It is important that people stay at their resort until they have confirmation from their airline or tour operator that they are on a flight back to the UK and that they follow their airline's advice on the appropriate arrival time at the airport.

"Any British nationals requiring assistance, over and above that being provided by their airline and tour operators, can call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 0000."

The UK's ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, told the BBC: "We have got good co-operation now which will allow us to get people home as soon as possible. Let us remember this has always been about making sure that when people go home they go home safely."

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