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Aviation Expert Explains The Stages Of Fighter Jets Intercepting An Aircraft

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Aviation Expert Explains The Stages Of Fighter Jets Intercepting An Aircraft

Following the news that stunned passengers saw their EasyJet flight get intercepted on its way to Menorca, many have been asking what that actually involves.

Over the weekend, footage went viral of a flight headed to popular holiday hotspot Menorca from Gatwick Airport that was intercepted by an F18 combat aircraft and escorted to its landing.

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In a statement shared with Simple Flying, EasyJet confirmed the incident, explaining: "EasyJet can confirm flight EZY8303 from London Gatwick to Menorca was escorted by military aircraft while landing in Menorca and delayed disembarking due to precautionary security checks.

"The passengers have since disembarked.

"The safety and security of its passengers and crew is always easyJet's highest priority and we would like to thank passengers for their understanding."

The footage showing the combat aircraft flying so closely to the commercial plane certainly looked shocking, but just what does intercepting another aircraft mean?

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A dig through Quora, as ever, has the answer.

Naval Aviator, Airline Pilot and Aerospace Engineer Major Tim Hibbetts answered a similar query on the site - and it all comes down to maths.

"Making an interception is about getting your plane in a place of advantage over your adversary" he explained.

"In a benign situation, usually when the other craft isn’t maneuvering, this means setting up an offset path (not going nose-to-nose) and making your turn such that you roll out right behind him, able to see him and see if he’s making any offensive moves."

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Credit: Twitter/iandrleslie
Credit: Twitter/iandrleslie

Things get trickier if the other craft are seeking to make offensive moves - although in this EasyJet case it was not.

"You are either getting into a position where you can launch weapons before the bandit (and ideally turn around and run while your automated ill will pops a discouraging hole in his plane), or deny him getting a radar lock on you and coming in to visually identify him if you weren’t sure before," Hibbetts added.

"That requires some complicated maneuvering that is specific to certain radar sets.

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"Hopefully you have at least a broad idea of what types of fighters are arrayed against you.

"But in both cases, you need to judge closing speeds, angles and threat ranges.

"It’s like taking the SAT while it’s on fire."

Theorising on the weekend's incident on Twitter, one user suggested: "It was a security procedure because of a false bomb alarm on board that had been published in social media, allegedly by some young occupants themselves, just for 'fun'".

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This claim hasn't been acknowledged by officials.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Military, Viral, Twitter

Simon Catling
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