Manama : In a hostile act, Qatari fighter jets yesterday intercepted a UAE civilian aircraft carrying 86 passengers including children.
The fighter jets flew dangerously close to the Emirati Airbus 320 flight from Dammam to Abu Dhabi at 10:50 am, the Civil Aviation Affairs said in a statement.
The flight ETD88 was crossing the Bahraini air space when the Qatari planes intercepted. The UAE passenger aircraft was following a scheduled flight path.The flight had met all requirements and the plane was flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet above the international waters, Route UN318 within Bahrain Flight Information Region, the Civil Aviation said.
“The Qatari fighter jets flew too close to the UAE civilian aircraft, jeopardising its safety, which required the intervention of the air control in Bahrain to take the necessary procedures to maintain safety of aviation and the pilot of the plane to manoeuvre and lower it to an altitude of 24,600 feet in order to avoid the Qatari fighters,” the Civil Aviation said.It said the incident constituted a clear violation of international regulations, threatened the safety of international air traffic, posed serious risks to air traffic and put the lives of passengers and property at risk. “Bahrain reserves the right to take all the measures with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and related organisations to put an end to such illegal practices carried out by the Qatari authorities,” it said.
The UAE General Authority of Civil Aviation also confirmed the incident. “The Qatar fighter jets followed and approached the UAE aircraft, reducing the horizontal distance to less than two miles and vertical separation to 700 feet, leaving just a few seconds before a possible collision of the aircraft. It was a dangerous approach endangering the lives of passengers,” it said, as quoted by The National.
One of the jets - a Mirage 2000 - reportedly flew within three vertical kilometres and 215 horizontal metres of the civilian registered aircraft, according to The National.
This is the fifth time a Qatari aircraft approaches a UAE plane while flying an approved route over a country’s airspace.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said the maneuver left just seconds before the collision of the two aircraft, endangering the lives of those on board, The National said.
“We will file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regarding this infringement,” the GCAA said.
“The threat of passenger safety in any way is unacceptable. The incident is a clear repetition of the threat to the safety of civil aviation and a violation of international laws and conventions,” it said in a statement.
In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, described the incident as “the greatest form of terrorism: using military weapons against civilians”.
He said the UAE would be filing another official complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN specialised agency.
Mirage 2000 jets can fly up to 2,400kph, Al Suwaidi said, and should the jet have intended to move closer to the aircraft: “a collision could have occurred within just a blink of an eye.
“A fighter jet flying that close to a defenceless civilian aircraft is an act of intimidation and a show of power.
“If this is not stopped from happening again it could lead to an accident,” he said.
Last month, Qatari fighter jets came within just 200 metres of a UAE-registered aircraft in what was described as a dangerous escalation of the harassment of the Emirates by the country’s civil aviation authority.
The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, have imposed travel, diplomatic and trade sanctions on Qatar since last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism.
Following the incident, the UAE General Authority of Civil Aviation said that it will file a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization.