Upon landing in Paris from Chad on Thursday, an Air France Boeing 787-9 was searched after the pilot received a bomb threat while flying. The incident also saw a fighter jet scrambled to escort the aircraft to Charles de Gaulle airport. No explosives were found after the aircraft was cordoned and searched.
Mid-air bomb scare
During Air France flight AF865 from N’Djamena (Chad) to Paris Charles de Gaulle, the Boeing 787-9 operating the service received word of a bomb threat. According to RTL, an Air Force spokesperson told the AFP that the pilot informed air traffic control that the bomb threat was actually received over the radio during the flight. “This type of threat is unusual and will lead to an investigation,” the spokesperson stated.
Responding to this threat, French military forces scrambled a Rafale fighter jet to escort the aircraft to Paris. According to a Twitter post by France’s Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, the country’s “interministerial crisis unit” was launched, following a “suspected presence of an explosive device” onboard the aircraft flying between N’Djamena (Chad) and Paris (France).
Darmanin goes on to report that the plane landed at Charles de Gaulle airport without incident at 16:01 local time and was isolated. Passengers disembarked, a search was conducted, and no bomb was found.
Upon landing, security forces isolated the aircraft in a special area of the airport (reserved for security operations) and evacuated passengers before conducting a search of the plane. The passenger cabin and baggage holds were searched, an airport source tells RTL.
About the incident flight and aircraft
The aircraft involved was operating AF865, a routine commercial passenger service from N’Djamena to Paris. The flight currently operates twice weekly using one of three aircraft types: A Boeing 787-9, 777-200, or Airbus A330-200.
In the case of Thursday’s incident, the flight was operated by a Boeing 787-9 registered as F-HRBF. With Manufacturers Serial Number 42488 and Line Number 687, the jet is just over three years old. Delivered to Air France in 2018, it has only ever flown with the French flag carrier. The aircraft is configured with 30 seats in business class, 21 in premium economy, and 225 in standard economy.
Another attempted hijacking?
One of the more interesting facets of this story is the report of the bomb scare being transmitted directly to the pilot over the radio while flying. We have been more accustomed to hearing about bomb threats received ‘on the ground’ by telephone or email, then relayed by security forces to the aircraft.
While it is unknown at which point in the flight the call was received, one course of action might have had the aircraft divert to the nearest airport. However, the events of May 23rd, 2021 and Ryanair flight FR4978, have shown that bomb threats can be used as a method of forcing down an aircraft.
It’s possible that this is the reason the aircraft continued on to Paris, rather than divert elsewhere. However, this cannot be confirmed. In the United States, the FAA notes that “Emergency handling is discretionary and should be based on the situation. With certain types of threats, plans may call for a low-key action or response.”
A la demande du Premier ministre, la cellule interministérielle de crise a été ouverte, à la suite d’une suspicion de présence à bord d’un engin explosif sur un vol Air France Ndjamena – Paris.
L’avion s’est posé à l’aéroport de Roissy sans incident et a été isolé. pic.twitter.com/dhDwpFubb9
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) June 3, 2021
Other recent bomb threats
Simple Flying has reported on a number of bomb scares in the last two months. Just six days ago, a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Krakow was diverted to Berlin Brandenburg Airport following a bomb threat call to the destination airport.
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The May 30th incident came a week after the high-profile Ryanair incident that saw Belarusian forces report a bomb threat to force a flight to land in Minsk. In this incident, an opposition journalist was arrested, causing major international condemnation.
French authorities scramble Rafale jet after bomb threat in Air France planehttps://t.co/fSm5AmIxP8
— WION (@WIONews) June 3, 2021
At the start of April, Simple Flying also reported on a bomb scare at Warsaw Chopin Airport, which resulted in the evacuation and search of a Turkish Airlines A319 that was scheduled to depart for Istanbul.
What do you think might have been the aim of this threat? Let us know in the comments.