A British jet with 189 passengers on board narrowly escaped calamity after it dodged a rocket as it approached Sharm el-Sheikh, it has been reported. The Thomson flight from London’s Stansted Airport came “within 1,000ft” of the missile and narrowly side-stepped it after the pilot took evasive action.
Passengers were not informed that they had been moments from disaster. The incident took place in August, two months before a Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 carrying 224 people crashed in the Sinai desert after taking off from the Egyptian resort. The Department for Transport has confirmed the incident involving the Thomson jet which took place on 23 August.
“The first officer was in charge at the time but the pilot was in the cockpit and saw the rocket coming towards the plane,” a source told the Daily Mail. “He ordered that the flight turn to the left to avoid the rocket, which was about 1,000ft away,” the source continued. The missile was also seen by another Thomson plane as it approached Sharm el-Sheikh, the source added.
A government spokesman said: “We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time.”
The five cabin crew members on board the flight, only found out about the rocket after the plane had landed. They were offered the chance to stay in Egypt overnight, but opted to return to the UK on a flight which took off with no internal or external lights.
Aircraft returning stranded British tourists have started arriving in the UK from Sharm el-Sheikh after flights were halted earlier this week by the government over concerns that the Russian plane crash was caused by a bomb. However, only eight of the 29 flights provisioned for 6 November went ahead and some 20,000 stranded Britons are thought to be in the Red Sea resort.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has banned all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh in recognition of the heightened security concerns. The Kremlin had earlier criticised the UK for a taking “premature and unwarranted” step to suspend flights.