Revealed: Passenger Plane Nearly Crashed Into IAF Fighter Jet

Collision between a British passenger plane and an Israel Air Force F-16 in Israeli airspace averted at the last second.

A British passenger plane almost crashed into an Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jet last month, it emerged on Tuesday.

The serious incident, which occurred near Eilat at the end of September and is being disclosed to the general public only now, is being investigated by Civil Aviation Authority and the IAF.

jet - Eliahu Hershkovitz - October 6, 2010
Eliahu Hershkovitz

A complaint was filed with the Egyptian aviation authorities, who were responsible for supervising the flight of the British plane, Haaretz learned on Monday.

The incident involved a passenger plane that took off from Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to Europe, was not supposed to pass through Israeli airspace and was under Egyptian jurisdiction.

The plane had adopted its flight path from the Taba area towards El Arish over the Sinai Peninsula west of the Israel-Egypt border, when it suddenly veered north into Israeli territory. At the same time Israeli Air Force fighter jets were conducting an operation in the area.

The British plane penetrated over 20 kilometers into Israeli airspace, dangerously brushing by the Israeli jets. The fighter pilots only realized what was happening at the very last second. A supervisor noticed the British plane and prevented a crash.

The IAF view the incident as a serious security breach. Israel Air Force Commander Major General Ido Nechushtan announced the establishment of an operations investigative team to look into the circumstances surrounding the incident and learn the necessary lessons from it.

An Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson stated: "On September 25, 2010, a British passenger plane approached dangerously close to an Air Force fighter jet while it was conducting an operation in the south of the country."

The IDF Spokesperson continued, "An IAF investigation revealed that the plane that took off from Sharm [el-Sheikh] on its way to Europe was under Cairo's supervision as it approached [Israeli airspace]. The British passenger plane veered north into Israeli airspace, out of its approved flight path, without coordination or approval."

"In the wake of the incident, a complaint was filed with the Civil Aviation Authority, which passed it on to the Egyptian aviation authorities," the IDF spokesperson concluded. The Civil Aviation Authority declined to comment.