ISTANBUL : Turkey scrambled a jet fighter Friday to force down an airliner from Ukraine after a would-be hijacker on board ordered it to Sochi where the Winter Olympic opening ceremony was underway, Turkish officials said.
Turkish media reported that a Ukrainian man brandishing a detonator tried to gain access to the cockpit of the Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines. He was overpowered by security forces after the airliner landed at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport. “A Pegasus Airlines plane with 110 people on board had to land at Sabiha Gokcen airport because of a passenger who threatened passengers with a bomb,” said Habib Soluk, deputy Turkish transport minister.
“We are sure that he didn’t enter the cockpit. We know that the aircraft was hijacked before it entered Turkish airspace,” he said.
The aircraft departed from Kharkov, Ukraine for the scheduled flight to Sabiha Gokcen. When the man tried unsuccessfully to get in the cockpit, the pilot emitted a hijack alert and the Turkish F-16 military jet was scrambled. The head of Turkey’s main pilots’ union said: “I received confirmation that everyone on board is okay and that the plane is fine. I know the pilot... he is experienced and I am sure everything is fine.” Before, Turkey scrambled the fighter jet after a bomb threat was made by the passenger. Television footage showed the Pegasus Airlines flight from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov arriving in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport. “People are still inside but the pilot called security and gave them a signal that they can enter the plane. There is a translator - a Turkish man near the Ukrainian to calm him down,” an airport official said.