Two Israeli F-15 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept an Egyptian passenger airplane on Saturday after it entered Israeli airspace and failed to identify itself.
“Earlier this morning, two Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft accompanied a foreign aircraft planning to land at Ben Gurion airport which did not identify itself when entering Israeli airspace,” an Israeli military spokeswoman said. “The aircraft landed safely at Ben Gurion airport as planned.”
The Air Sinai Boeing 737 took off from Cairo and strayed from its flight plan, and the pilots did not respond to Israeli requests to identify themselves. The IAF jets escorted the Egyptian airliner to Ben Gurion International Airport where it landed without incident and the passengers disembarked.
After a short investigation, the passengers re-boarded the plane and returned to Cairo.
An Egyptian aviation ministry official stated that the pilot had given the necessary notification to Cypriot authorities as he flew through their airspace but they delayed in notifying Israeli aviation authorities according to procedure.
“Given that the Cypriot air traffic control was late in providing Israeli air traffic control with the plane’s identification, an Israeli Air Force jet intercepted the plane,” the Egyptian ministry official told reporters, adding that the airliner had since returned to Cairo.
Israeli radio reported the incident was due to the pilots being new to the route and unfamiliar with communication protocols.
“The Egyptian company was asked to make the procedures clear to its pilots,” the broadcaster said.
Yedioth Aharonoth reported that error in communication was “apparently due to a technical fault.”
Jerusalem Post reported that such incidents occur several times each month. A notable case in which Israeli jets flew to intercept a civilian liner was last month when an Egyptian plane was hijacked and IAF jets were called on to prevent an infiltration into Israeli airspace. e plane was flying from Alexandria to Cairo but the hijacker forced a landing in Cypress.