Silent aircraft causes scramble

Just 16 days after the Helios crash, a Czech charter flight which did not respond to air-traffic controllers when it entered Greek air space yesterday briefly put authorities on alert and led to fighter jets being scrambled. The plane flew into Greek air space south of Crete at 12.23 p.m. on its way from Cairo to Bratislava. As is customary, flight controllers attempted to contact the pilot to tell him what path to follow but received no response. After repeated failed efforts over a 12-minute period to achieve communication, including on the Cairo and emergency frequencies, the Greek Civil Aviation Authority gave the order for two air force planes to take off and approach the aircraft. This was the same procedure that was followed with the doomed Helios flight after it had been classified as a «renegade» aircraft. In the Helios case, the authority was criticized because controllers took more than an hour before attempting to contact the plane after it entered Greek air space. However, before the fighters took off yesterday, the pilot of the Czech plane contacted air-traffic control and said he had experienced a problem with his headset.