Defence Minister Ľubomír Galko rejected claims that two Slovak Armed Forces MiG-29 jet fighters which approached a Qatar Airways Boeing 747 over the weekend came too close or endangered the lives of those on board the civilian airliner. The source of the reports, published widely in the Slovak media on Tuesday, October 25, was not revealed, the TASR newswire reported.
“The distance [between the jet fighters and the Boeing 747] was nine kilometres horizontally and 300 metres vertically,” said Ľubomír Svoboda, commander of the Strategic Planning Staff at the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces, as quoted by TASR. “So there was no threat. The distance was just less than normal.”
According to the media, Slovakia’s Aviation Operation Service (LPS) also confirmed reports that two interceptors had approached too close to an aircraft which had lost radio contact with ground control on Saturday, October 22.
“If so, LPS is not right,” said Galko, as quoted by TASR, adding that the pilots observed the rules.
Two MiG-29 jets intervened after air traffic controllers in the Czech Republic lost contact with the Qatar Airways plane as it headed eastwards. The Slovak interceptors approached the airliner as it entered Slovak airspace.
The fighter pilots received a visual signal from the Qatari aeroplane that the safety of the passengers was not in danger. Later it emerged that the reason for the loss of contact was a technical problem on board the airliner.
“If some madman was heading towards Jaslovské Bohunice [a nuclear power plant], U.S. Steel or some apartment block in Petržalka [a highly-populated borough of Bratislava], the defence minister has the power to issue an order to intercept the aircraft in such extreme situations,” Galko explained.
Compiled by Radka Minarechová from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.
26. Oct 2011 at 10:00