Saudia pilot “accidentally” triggers terrorist alert at Manila airport
The pilot of a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from Jeddah “accidentally” pressed the plane’s distress button, sparking fears of a hijacking which prompted officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to apologize on Tuesday.
The pilot of the plane with flight number SV 872 was on its way to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 when it happened, said Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Eddie Monreal.
A total of 431 people, who mostly came from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, were on board. It had 410 passengers and 21 crew members.
All baggage were subjected to X-ray inspection. Police scoured the aircraft for explosives.
An apologetic Monreal faced the media past 4 pm, explaining they had to implement standard operating procedures when there are reports of a terrorist threat.
"My apologies for those who were bothered. The intention was to ensure the safety of everyone," Monreal said in a news briefing
According to an initial timeline from Monreal, officials received a call from the control tower at 2:16 pm, saying the plane was under threat 20 miles before landing.
Transportation and police officials created a crisis management team after the pilot pressed the distress signal again when the control tower sought confirmation.
The aircraft, upon landing at 2:39 pm, was isolated at the end of the runway so other flights will not be hindered. A police anti-hijacking team and other elite security forces were dispatched.
While the pilot later said he made a mistake, a security inspection on the aircraft and the passengers commenced despite the pilot's clarification. The passengers left the plane at 5:35 pm, or nearly three hours after the plane landed.
"We cannot just take it hook, line and sinker," said Monreal .
Chief Superintendent Mao Aplasca, Aviation Security Group director, said what happened was an "error" in flight management.
"We are still interviewing the crew to further validate our initial findings," Aplasca said.
Aplasca they don't know which of the pilots activated the distress signal It is now the subject of an investigation.
Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde, director of the National Capital Region Police Office, said later the situation has become normal. "Allegedly, the pilot accidentally pressed the emergency light of the aircraft," Albayalde said in a text message.
The incident did not hamper operations, said Monreal. Emmanuel Tupas