The pilot of a Boeing 767 plane flying from Israel to the United States that caused a scare in the United Kingdom early Sunday has described how the aircraft’s radio went down and his shock at seeing two fighter jets flying closely alongside.
The incident caused Royal Air Force jets to be scrambled toward the silent aircraft, setting off a sonic boom that sounded throughout London early in the morning, frightening residents.
“It took us about 10 minutes to realize that the radio wasn’t working and then about 10 minutes to resolve that problem,” pilot Steven Giordano told the BBC.
The retired El Al plane, which was registered on November 20 to California-based leasing company Pacific Aircorp, took off from Ben Gurion Airport at around 1 a.m. Sunday on its way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the US.
On the way, around 4 a.m. (UK time), it did not respond to British authorities’ attempt to contact it due to a communications malfunction.
Two Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled from an Royal Air Force base in Coningsby and intercepted the plane, UK media reported. After communications with the aircraft were restored, the flight continued as planned toward the US and the fighter jets returned to their base.
“Amazing how fast the RAF reacted. I applaud them for that,” said Giordano, adding that he and his crew had been busy trying to restore communications and had not noticed the fighters come alongside.
“I looked left and about had a heart attack when I saw one – so close – strobes on and with blueish ‘glow strips’ along the side of his fuselage,” he said.
“We flashed our landing lights to acknowledge and established radio contact on ‘guard’… with the fighters,” he said noting that they had already reestablished contact with London at that point.
“They remained with us for about five minutes,” he said.
The loud bang heard throughout north London and surrounding areas was the result of a sonic boom from RAF planes. There is no cause for concern.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) December 1, 2019
Tel Aviv to Portsmouth, NH with callsign JTN9185, then to Phoenix Goodyear. JTN – Jet Test is a ferrying outfit for large aircraft. N725SH was stored in Tel Aviv and just re-registered last month to Pacific Aircorp (leasing outfit). pic.twitter.com/e8OUgra22A
— Paveway IV (@PavewayIV) December 1, 2019
But while the incident ended safely, it definitely didn’t end quietly. The air force planes had been cleared to go faster than the speed of sound on their way to intercept the unresponsive aircraft, setting off a loud bang that woke up many residents of Britain’s capital.
Many subsequently shared their experience on social media and with UK media, along with videos of the incident in which the sonic boom can be heard.
— Astrolad (@Wolfandskitty) December 1, 2019
Anyone else hear a loud bang and feel the shockwave 4:20am? Heard a loud plane noise soon after ????????♂️ maybe just a sonic boom. Chingford #loudbanglondon
— Logan Dean (@Logankekoa) December 1, 2019
And here's the 767 that lost communication N725SH…. Formerly El Al but looks like now owned by aircraft leasing company. pic.twitter.com/C2S1jHi5ss
— Derek Gibbons (@delgibbons) December 1, 2019
Royal Air Force Typhoons Jets callsign 5EA26 & 5EA27 scrambled because a Boeing 767 N725SH lost communication with air traffic control.@metpoliceuk #NorthLondon @raf @BBCNews pic.twitter.com/SeG6JCAhj5
— ChameleonWebServices (@chameleonweb) December 1, 2019