11:16 Sunday 22 September 2013

UPDATE Two men arrested for 'endangering aircraft' as passenger plane is diverted to Stansted Airport

Written byPAUL WINSPEAR

A 57-YEAR-old man arrested following a mid-air disturbance on a plane which had to be diverted to Stansted Airport has been released on police bail this evening (Saturday, September 21).

He and another passenger, aged 49, were detained when the Heathrow-bound SriLankan Airlines flight carrying 267 passengers and crew landed at the Essex hub on Friday evening.

The pair, both British, were arrested by Essex Police officers on suspicion of endangering an aircraft.

The 49-year-old is receiving medical treatment in hospital.

The man released on bail has to report back to police next Friday (September 27) pending further inquiries.

Fighter jets were scrambled from an RAF base in Lincolnshire after the pilots of the SriLankan Airlines’ flight UL503 issued a distress code signalling an emergency.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (Mod) said: “We can confirm that Typhoon aircraft from RAF Coningsby were launched to investigate after reports of a disturbance on an Airbus travelling from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Heathrow.

“While the Typhoons were en route the situation was resolved and the Airbus landed safely at Stansted. This is a matter for Essex Police.”

The flight, which left the Sri Lankan capital at 1.05pm local time, landed at about 7.30pm.

The plane, an Airbus A330-200, touched down on the segregated north side of the airport, well away from the main terminal building.

Essex Police officers went on board and arrested two men.

The passengers were removed safely and taken by coach to Heathrow, where their 11-hour flight was originally scheduled to land at 8.05pm.

SriLankan Airlines is the national flag carrier of the Indian Ocean island republic off the southern coast of India. It operates to destinations in Asia and Europe from its base at Bandaranayake International Airport in Colombo.

Stansted is the UK’s designated airport for hijacks and other high-security incidents because aircraft can be easily isolated on the north side, away from the main terminal.

On May 24, a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Lahore carrying 308 passengers and 14 crew was rerouted to Stansted about 10 minutes before it was due to land at Manchester.

The Boeing 777 landed at the north-west Essex hub under escort from RAF Typhoon fighter jets which had been scrambled from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

Two men from Nelson in Lancashire are to stand trial at Chelmsford Crown Court on November 11 accused of making false threats endangering the safety of an aircraft in relation to that incident.

Supermarket employee Tayyab Subhani, 30, and restaurant worker Mohammed Safdar, 41, deny communicating false information on May 24 that the crew and passengers would be killed and the aircraft blown up before landing.

Married father-of-three Safdar and part-time taxi driver Subhani were flying home after attending Safdar’s mother’s funeral.

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