Just a few hours after EgyptAir’s A320 with 66 people aboard crashed in the Mediterranean on Thursday, another aircraft narrowly avoided a fatal disaster over Greece.
Delta Air Lines aircraft 767-400, on a charter flight (DL-8957) from Frankfurt Hahn to Kuwait, entered the Athens Flight Information Region(FIR) from southeastern Tirana (Albania) at 7.10pm local time on Thursday without identifying itself and pilots did not respond to repeated calls by controllers from Italy and Greece for at least an hour, an official said on Sunday, confirming Greek media reports.
Because of terrorist attack or hijack fears, the incident was immediately escalated by the Greek Civil Aviation authorities to the Ministry of Defense.
Following military protocol, at 7.49pm two F-16 fighter jets intercepted the Delta plane while it was flying near the Aegean island of Santorini.
F-16 pilots attempted to make visual contact with the passenger jet pilots but reported to the ground their being in normal sitting position but possibly asleep.
One of the F16s flew in front of the passenger plane and with light signals attempted to alert the pilots while the other flying next to the passenger cabin.
After passengers reported the presence of a military jet to flight attendants, the latter knocked on the cockpit door to wake up pilots.
Pilots then contacted Greek authorities at 7.55pm and exited the Athens FIR at 8.10pm.
Due to its consistent cruising during the no-contact time, the plane is said to be on auto pilot.
Greek authorities have reportedly sent a letter to Delta Air Lines requesting fuel costs and convenience charges paid.
The incident occurred hours after the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo disappeared off radar screens in the early hours of Thursday, without its crew sending a distress signal.
Search vessels have since found human remains and belongings north of the Egyptian port Alexandria but the cause of the crash remains unknown.
Note: The original article said from Paris to Kuwait, as per the information released by Greek officials.