A British Airways aircraft was chased down and escorted by two Typhoon fighter jets over the skies near Heathrow Airport on Friday evening in what turned out to be a major military exercise simulating a hijack scenario.
The British Airways-operated Airbus A320neo aircraft took off from Heathrow at around 9:30 pm on Friday with a special call sign of ‘CHARIOT’ and then initially flew north towards Norfolk.
The nearly six-year-old aircraft was quickly intercepted by two Typhoon jets from the Royal Air Force (RAF) ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ squadron that stands ready at all times to respond to any threats across the UK’s air space, including a potential hijacking.
The two fighters then escorted the British Airways plane back to Heathrow, where it landed without incident, although not before residents across London were left wondering exactly what was going on as the unusual roar of fighter jets overhead took people by surprise.
The exact nature of the exercise hasn’t been made public, but in a statement on an X account associated with the airport, Heathrow said it was taking part in a planned training exercise “involving government and industry partners”.
“Residents may notice some additional noise at the airport related to aircraft involved in the exercise. We would like to apologise in advance for any inconvenience,” the statement continued.
Late last year, the RAF Quick Reaction Alert squadron was dispatched for real to chase down a Jet2 plane that was flying from Dalaman to Manchester because an alleged bomb threat had been made against the flight.
The Airbus A321 jet was forced to divert to Stanstead Airport near London as this is a specially designated airport for dealing with terror threats and hijackings.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.