AMSTERDAM (AP) – The Netherlands scrambled two F16 fighter jets Wednesday to escort a Spanish passenger plane to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport after air traffic controllers could not make contact with the aircraft’s crew.
Dutch media initially reported a possible hijacking, but local police and Vueling, the Spanish carrier whose jet was at the center of the scare, later confirmed there was never a hijacking or a hostage situation.
“Amsterdam’s protocol for security was activated owing to a temporary loss of communication between the plane and air traffic control,” Vueling said in a tweet.
The Dutch Defense Ministry said the F16s were scrambled when no radio contact could be made with the plane, which was carrying more than 180 passengers. The ministry’s statement said that F16s are sent up to “establish visual contact with the crew” whenever a plane is in Dutch airspace and cannot be contacted by radio.
After it landed, the Vueling Airbus 320 taxied to a remote corner of Schiphol about two kilometers (1.5 miles) from the main terminal and was immediately surrounded by security personnel and several ambulances. A bus later arrived to ferry the passengers to the airport.
National Dutch broadcaster NOS spoke by phone with a person it identified as one of the passengers who said that there was no panic on board. “Everything is calm,” the passenger said shortly after the plane landed.
A Vueling spokeswoman said one of the company’s planes had a similar communication problem while flying the same route last year.
She said the problem occurred over France and that France sent up a Mirage 2000 to escort it for a while. The plane was allowed to continue its journey and land as planned. The spokeswoman was unable to say if it involved the same plane or pilot. She spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with company rules.
The security alert in Amsterdam came as part of Schiphol Airport already was evacuated and several flights had been delayed or cancelled after workmen digging a trench unearthed a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) German World War II bomb. The bomb was safely removed by late afternoon.
Nazi forces who occupied the Netherlands in WWII took over Schiphol and used it as a base for Luftwaffe aircraft. It was repeatedly bombed by Allied and German air forces during the war.
Associated Press reporters Mike Corder in The Hague and Jorge Sainz in Madrid contributed.
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