Plane narrowly misses crashing into military jet

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The Independent Online

An air disaster involving hundreds of passengers from Northern Ireland was miraculously averted after a plane travelling from Turkey to Belfast narrowly missed colliding with another aircraft, it has emerged.

Terrified passengers told how they thought “they were going to die” after the plane, destined for Belfast International Airport, suddenly plunged hundreds of feet just minutes after take off from Dalaman on Monday.

The pilot had to take evasive action to avoid what was believed to have been a Turkish military aircraft.

Among the passengers was Glentoran footballer Jason Hill who was travelling home with his partner and 13-month-old baby girl.

According to Thomson Holidays an investigation has been launched by Skyservice Airlines, which operated the flight on their behalf, and the Turkish authorities.

Another passenger, who did not want to be named, said they all thought they were going to die during the stomach-churning drama.

“We plunged suddenly for about 30 seconds and the plane went onto its side,” he said.

“Everybody on the plane was screaming and shouting, grown men were crying. It was terrifying. Everybody thought they were dead.”

The plane then managed to come level.

The passenger added: “As the panic sort of went down and the plane was going back up, the pilot came onto the intercom.

“He said he was sorry and he was sure our hearts were in our mouths, but the problem was an unidentified flying object.

“Then he came back and said it was a Turkish military plane and said, ‘Had I not taken the dramatic action we have just taken, we wouldn’t be here talking about it’.”

It is understood some of the passengers sitting at the front of the plane watched in horror as they saw the aircraft coming towards them. But the frightened passenger said the crew could not have done more.

“The pilot was absolutely fantastic, a hero in my mind,” he added. “The frightening bit was when he said to everyone, after 55 years experience between him and his co-pilot it was the closest they’ve every come to a disaster in the air.”

The passengers then had to sit for another four hours to get home.

“When I got home and finally thought about it, I just said ‘Thank God for that pilot’.

“Every bit of turbulence and everything the whole way back was dramatic. Everybody was thinking, here we go again.

“Once we touched down we were just so relieved, and they all gave a big cheer to the pilot.”

The incident has left him re-thinking travelling by airplane again.

“It will take me a long time to make me fly again.

“I had plans to go away over the 12th but I don’t think I will now,” he said.

A spokesman from Thomson said: “We can confirm that the captain of a flight operated on our behalf by our partner Skyservice Airlines from Dalaman to Belfast on 1 June, initiated avoiding action to maintain normal separation from a suspected military aircraft.

“There were no reported injuries and the flight continued as scheduled to Belfast.

“However, we take any incident extremely seriously and Skyservice Airlines has confirmed that an air proximity report has been completed and a full investigation is now being carried out by them and the Turkish authorities.”

The incident happened on the same day as the Air France jet was lost over the Atlantic.

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph