An El Al flight has safely landed after officials received an anonymous tip that there was a bomb on board. The flight was going from New York to Israel and was met by French fighter jets once it hit European airspace. After that, it was escorted by Swiss jets.
The Swiss air force said in a statement that it deployed jets around 8:30 a.m. on a so-called “hot mission,” that accompanied the flight. Vladi Barrosa, a spokesman for the Swiss government-run air navigation service Skyguide, said the plane left Swiss airspace safely into Austrian airspace.
The incident caused concern among locals in German-speaking Switzerland after two sonic booms echoed after two Swiss F/A-18 aircraft were deployed for the escort. Barrosa, working in the Zurich area, said he too heard the blasts: “I thought my windows were about to burst.”
Fighter jet escorts in the United States usually happen when it is believed there is a terrorist threat or if they believe there is a bomb on the plane. I assume Europe has similar criteria.
We don’t force aircraft to land unless the threat is obvious and credible. On 9/11, even if we’d been able to get fighters up and onto either of the airliners that hit the World Trade Center, I doubt anyone would have considered the threat more than that of a commandeered aircraft soon to be taken out of our airspace or landed somewhere with a list of demands. The actual outcome would have been unthinkable until after it happened. Now that it has, strategic surprise has been lost and this scenario has had to be considered and prepared for. The act of “forcing down” itself depends upon the pilot of the intercepted aircraft not having a death wish. If they do, about all that can be done is to prevent them from fulfilling it at a location of their choosing.