Two Israel Air Force fighter jets reportedly almost crashed into a passenger plane during training exercises in the Negev desert on Tuesday.
The Israel Air Force planes came “dangerously close” to the Ryanair passenger plane, which had 162 passengers on board, close to Ovda Airport, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the southern resort town of Eilat, Army Radio reported.
The incident occurred at 27,000 feet. The Ryanair pilots prevented a crash by changing course at the last moment, Channel 2 reported, citing the speedy and effective reaction of the Ryanair cockpit to the danger.
But Ryanair denied the “false and invented” reports of a near-miss.
“This flight from Krakow to Eilat Ovda (1 Mar) was cruising at 27,000 ft in Israeli airspace when two military aircraft (over 3 miles away) were noticed by the crew ascending towards the Ryanair aircraft flight path. The crew notified local ATC and the military aircraft descended away from the Ryanair jet, which continued on to Eilat Ovda and landed without incident,” it said.
“These military aircraft were at all times over 3 miles away from the Ryanair aircraft, so the reports of a ‘nearly crash’ or ‘evasive manoeuvres’ are all false and invented. All passengers on board the Ryanair aircraft noticed nothing, since our aircraft never diverted from its cleared flight path to Ovda.”
No injures or damage were reported. The Transportation Ministry and air force launched an investigation into the incident.
The Ryanair plane was coming in to land at Ovda, having flown in from Krakow, Ynet reported, when two F-16s flew across its path.
Four fighter jets were engaged in the exercise; two of them flew from east to west across the civilian airliner’s path.
Ireland’s Ryanair, which calls itself Europe’s cheapest commercial airline, began flying between Ovda and a number of Eastern European cities in July 2015, making it the only carrier to operate international flights to the southern resort city.
David O’Brien, Ryanair’s chief commercial officer, said at the time the new routes to Israel were launched to meet the growing demand for leisure vacations in central and Eastern Europe.