Two men have been arrested at Stansted Airport on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft after an RAF Typhoon jet from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire was scrambled to escort a passenger plane travelling from Pakistan to the UK.
Officers boarded Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709, which had been bound for Manchester, after it landed at Stansted and removed the men from the plane.
A police spokesman said: “Essex Police have boarded a passenger plane diverted to Stansted Airport and two men have been arrested on suspicion of endangerment of an aircraft. They have been removed from the plane.” Police said the men, aged 30 and 41, have been taken to a police station for questioning.
The RAF jet was scrambled following an incident around 10 minutes before the plane, which departed from Lahore, was due to land in Manchester at 2pm on Friday.
The incident is not thought to be terrorism-related at this stage, it is understood. It is thought that the incident might have been sparked by a scuffle or a disagreement among passengers. The plane remained at a spot on the north side of the airport with flights carrying on as normal.
Mahmouda Aslam, 50, from Prestwich, Manchester, was at the airport awaiting her husband Mohammed on the flight. After speaking to her husband on his mobile, she said: “I said, ‘Are you alright? Are you scared?’ He said, ‘We are all OK. The flight is full of police’.”
Mrs Aslam said she was “just glad the plane has landed”, adding: “They are all just sat there, they can’t even get out of the chairs. I’m feeling better because the police are on there.”
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft which was due to land at Manchester Airport at 1.30pm today has been diverted to our sister airport London Stansted, where the authorities are investigating.
“The plane - flight number PK709 - was travelling from Lahore and had 297 passengers on board. For further information for friends or family who were due to meet the flight at Manchester please call 0800 140 4007.”
A spokesman for Stansted Airport said passengers were being taken off the plane. “They will be taken to a reception centre on the airport where police may wish to interview them about what they have seen. At some point police and the airline will arrange for their onward transportation to Manchester.”
At Manchester, another worried relative, Zohaib Sattar, 24, from Huddersfield, was awaiting his wife Iqra Anwar, 24 and his father Abdul Sattar, 57, both on the flight.
Zohaib Sattar said he spoke to his father on the phone after landing. “They have taken two people off the plane and are checking the plane all over,” he said. “The rest are just sat there waiting for further information. My father said there was no warning or threat, all of a sudden the plane just turned around.”
According to one of the passengers, the aircraft’s cabin crew said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the cockpit.
Umari Nauman told Sky News: “The cabin crew informed us that basically they tried to come into the cockpit a few times and because they had been asked not to do that they got into a bit of an argument with the crew and made a few threats.”
She said all the passengers had been ordered to leave their possessions on board before leaving the plane. Ms Nauman also said helicopters escorted the aircraft before landing.
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