Military jet escorts Qatar Airways plane to Manchester Airport
- 5 August 2014
- From the section Manchester
A man has been arrested on suspicion of making a hoax bomb threat after RAF jets were alerted to escort a passenger plane to Manchester Airport.
The Qatar Airways plane, flight QR23, was escorted in by an RAF Typhoon following information received by the pilot from a passenger.
Police said the pilot had been handed a note about a possible device on board.
Armed police boarded the Doha to Manchester plane and arrested a 47-year-old man.
All flights in and out of the airport were suspended for about 25 minutes.
'Pretty shook up'
The plane involved was an Airbus A330 with 269 passengers and 13 Qatar Airways crew on board.
The RAF confirmed Typhoon aircraft were launched from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire as part of its "quick reaction alert role" when a pilot requested assistance.
Operations at the airport resumed at about 14:00 BST.
Greater Manchester Police said the arrested man, who comes from the North West area, was being held in custody for questioning.
Passengers disembarked the plane "as normal", an airport spokesman said.
Josh Hartley, who boarded the plane at Doha in Qatar, said: "When the escort came it was very scary - I'm pretty shook up now."
Passenger Matthew Cox told the BBC: "Armed police came on and found a guy, searched him and made him stand up with his hands on his head and took him off the plane.
"He seemed no different to others on the plane, nothing unusual."
A statement for Qatar Airways confirmed flight QR23 landed safely at Manchester Airport ahead of its scheduled arrival time of 13:15 BST.
It said: "The crew on board had received a threat about a possible device and Qatar Airways immediately took all the necessary precautions to alert British authorities.
"The crew is now fully assisting police at the airport with their inquiries."
Manchester Airport said nine incoming flights were diverted to other airports, with five landing at Leeds Bradford International Airport.
A plane carrying the Manchester United team back from Florida, where they played in a pre-season friendly tournament, landed on time.
"There are a few minor delays to outgoing flights," a Manchester Airport spokesman added.
Witness Chris Phelan, 42, from Heaton Moor, was in his garden when he heard the roar of a jet plane before filming it on his camera.
"I looked up and saw what looked like a Typhoon jet flying close to a passenger plane.
"I live on the flight path so I'm used to seeing planes coming into land but it's the first time this has ever happened in the four to five years I've been here."
It is understood police were speaking to crew members about what they saw, while passengers reported waiting while their luggage was searched.
From about 16:20 BST, flights to and from the airport were returning to normal.
Aviation expert Chris Yates said information for passengers was kept minimal for a number of reasons.
He said: "This would be to create an air of calm on board the plane for all of the passengers and also not to communicate anything to anyone involved in making a threat or anyone who might be associated with that person."
Some relatives of those on board expressed frustration at the delays, and said they struggled to get the latest information from airport staff.
Arthur Smee, 58, a hospital porter from Penmaenmawr, North Wales, was waiting for his daughter, Lisa, 25, to arrive when he heard about the incident.
He said: "Some people were stood around talking and some had pictures of the plane being followed by a military plane - you just think the worst don't you?
"I'm just glad she got in touch. She said armed police have been on the plane and taken somebody off.
"They were just sat there for ages then put on a bus."
Matthew Cox's mother Pauline, who was waiting for her son to return from a three-week trip to Thailand, said: "Nobody has been out from Manchester Airport to tell us anything. Parents have been waiting, two, three hours.
"When we asked we were told they were in a remote location for security reasons."
But passenger Hazel McInnes, who was on another plane, said: "Fair play to Manchester Airport, our flight from Pisa landed on time at 14:20. We were informed that we could have been delayed, but we landed without any delay.
"We managed to catch Man United coming off their flight too, at baggage reclaim."
Figures from the Ministry of Defence show how often fighter jets are sent up in the UK to intercept aircraft as part of so-called "quick reaction alerts" (QRA).
There were 17 in 2013, 21 in 2012 and 20 in 2011, according to data given in a Commons written answer to Scottish National Party MP Angus Robertson in June.
The MoD said not every launch resulted in an interception, as some incidents were resolved beforehand.