BEIRUT — The 145 passengers aboard an Airbus A321 belonging to Lebanese company Middle East Airlines received a fright on Aug. 10 as they traveled from Madrid to Beirut. As the civilian aircraft made its way over Greece, Greek fighter planes suddenly joined it in the sky.
According to sources, this incident occurred due to an error by the pilot who had not adjusted the frequency of his radio and did not respond to calls from air traffic control authorities. Commenting on the case on Monday, the Lebanese Ministry of Transport neither confirmed nor denied this version of events.
According to the Greek City Times news website and the Twitter account @Intel_Sky, which monitors air traffic information, the Greek authorities triggered the "Renegade" alert following a report from the Nato air traffic control center in Spain, in order to intercept the plane in question, which had taken off from Madrid and was heading to Beirut, and was not responding to radio calls.
According to Intel Sky, several attempts were made to make radio contact with the MEA aircraft, without success, which alerted the authorities.
"Immediately, two F-16 fighter jets took off from the Souda (Crete) base and approached the civilian plane over Argolis," writes the Greek City Times. "The two fighter jets approached the unresponsive aircraft at around 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday. They were then able to establish radio contact with the pilot and found that there was no problem," the site adds.
It seems, according to the Greek news site, "that the pilot forgot to set his radio equipment to the correct frequencies, which explains why he was unable to respond to calls made."
According to Intel Sky, which cites anonymous sources, the pilot in question is Abed el-Hout, the son of Mohammad el-Hout, the chairman of the MEA board of directors.
Reacting on Monday to the incident and the information published by Intel Sky, the caretaker Lebanese Transport Minister, Ali Hamieh, said in a statement that after contacting MEA's director of operations, Ahmad Mansour, the latter informed him that the flight crew of the plane was composed of "two pilots and a co-pilot who have all the technical capabilities required to carry out their mission" and that all three were in the cockpit during the flight.
"The Lebanese plane contacted the Greek air traffic control authorities twice when it entered Greek airspace .... A little later, two Greek airforce planes approached the aircraft and contacted its crew to inquire about any possible emergency. When they received a negative response, the pilot of one of the Greek fighter planes greeted the Lebanese aircraft and let it continue its trajectory," the minister said. He concluded by saying that the air traffic control authorities in Lebanon have not received any report from their Greek counterparts "for the moment."
However, Hamieh did not indicate the identity of the crew in his statement and did not deny or confirm reports that one of the pilots was the son of Mohammad el-Hout. He also did not explain the causes that would have led the Greek fighter planes to consider the possibility of an emergency on board the MEA aircraft.
BEIRUT — The 145 passengers aboard an Airbus A321 belonging to Lebanese company Middle East Airlines received a fright on Aug. 10 as they traveled from Madrid to Beirut. As the civilian aircraft made its way over Greece, Greek fighter planes suddenly joined it in the sky.According to sources, this incident occurred due to an error by the pilot who had not adjusted the frequency of his radio...