THE heightened state of security in Europe has led to two Palma flights being escorted across France by military fighter jets this summer.
The latest incident occurred on Tuesday and involved a charter flight carrying over 200 British holidaymakers home from Majorca.
An unknown fault apparently led to the Boeing 757-200 losing radio contact with French air traffic controllers as it flew between Bordeaux and Brest, entering another section of air space without the necessary authorisation.
The first sign for the 233 British tourists that anything was wrong was when two French fighter jets pulled up alongside the passenger jet.
The French air force fighter jets were ordered to make a visual check on the plane in question and picked up the flight as it swung from Nantes across the English Channel prior to starting its descent to land at Gatwick airport.
Radio contact was made with the captain and, once the fighter pilots were able to confirm the situation was normal, returned to base.
Thomas Cook Airlines spokesperson Shaun Robertson has said The captain was under the control of Bordeaux ATC (air traffic control) and had been passed over to Brest ATC. During this procedure only radio contact was lost for a short time. The aircraft was still visible to both Bordeaux and Brest controllers on their monitors and the captain has back-up radio communication systems onboard should he have required them. The safety of both passengers and aircraft was never compromised. The aircraft landed safely at Gatwick airport on schedule. An inbound flight to Palma from Bergen in Norway, sparked a similar incident on May 1.
On this occasion, however, three countries scrambled fighter jets.
Danish, German, Dutch and French air forces were apparently put on alert for a possible suicide mission after the Spanish airliner flew for hundreds of miles without responding to messages from air traffic control, sparking fears that the aircraft had been hijacked.
Germany, Holland and France scrambled fighter planes, concerned that Brussels or even Paris may have been the target of an attack to mark the first day of European enlargement.
Again, the first anyone on board the plane knew of the security scare was when a flight attendant saw the French fighter jets alongside the plane and informed the pilot who immediately contacted the fighter pilots to assure them that the plane was under no threat and that the flight to Palma was proceeding as normal.