UK Scrambles Fighter Jets After Alerts on US Flights

RAF jets respond to alarms from 2 transatlantic flights
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2010 3:44 AM CDT
British defense officials say the decision to shoot down a commercial airliner would come from the highest levels of government.   (AP Photo / Niall Carson, PA)
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(Newser) – Britain's Royal Air Force has scrambled fighter jets twice this month after receiving warnings of possible attempts to hijack American passenger jets, defense sources say. Both incidents proved to be false alarms but they have put fresh focus on Britain's post 9/11 counterterrorism procedures for commercial aircraft, the BBC reports. The Guardian notes that PM Gordon Brown was alerted, and could have faced the decision of whether to shoot an airliner down to avoid a potential attack.

In the most recent incident, fighter jets were scrambled after air traffic controllers overheard the words "hostage" and "ransom" in a conversation on a flight from the US, followed by a highly unusual request to carry out a sudden descent to test auxiliary power units. The jets followed the aircraft through UK airspace and into Belgium, where it landed. Defense officials said the matter was resolved but declined to provide further details.

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