Two questioned by police after trying to enter the cockpit of Pakistan Airlines plane
A Pakistan International Airline (PIA) passenger plane was diverted to Stansted airport by two RAF Typhoon fighter jets amid fears of a possible hijacking yesterday.
The captain of the PIA flight PK709 carrying 297 passengers and 11 crew members flying from Lahore to Manchester activated an emergency signal (“squawk 7700”) after the crew reported that two men had threatened and tried to approach the cockpit a few times.
After having received the emergency signal, two RAF war planes raced through the skies to meet the PIA plane which was then diverted from Manchester, where it had been ten minutes from landing, to Stansted airport in Essex.
The superintendent Darrin Tomkins of Essex police said: “In accordance with standard protocols, the plane was diverted to Stansted airport and military aircraft escorted it until it landed. The plane touched down at 2.15pm and once it had been directed to a safe location, armed police officers entered the aircraft and arrested two suspects on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft.”
For more than three decades, Stansted has been the designated airport for hijacks and major security incidents, with a remote area known as Compass Base set aside far from the main terminal.
Police have arrested two men aged 30 and 41 on suspicion of endangerment of aircraft. They were named by PIA officials as Umera Ashraf and Mohammad Shafqat. Both are British citizens of Pakistani origin who had been occupying economy class seats 61J and 61H.
The incident comes two days after a soldier was hacked to death in Woolwich in London, an episode the government are treating as a terrorist attack.