Ryanair B738 over Austria on Oct 25th 2019, aircraft intercepted by fighter aircraft due to loss of communication
Last Update: November 6, 2019 / 16:05:32 GMT/Zulu time
Date of incident
Oct 25, 2019
ICAO Type Designator
A single Slovak media outlet initially reported a major drama stating that the aircraft had disappeared from radar and was unable to communicate with ATC, their equipment failed and they needed the support by Austrian Fighter Aircraft to guide them through to a landing in Bratislava. The following day that outlet reported, Bratislava Airport had confirmed the occurrence (without any change in the narrative), a number of Slovak Media including a Slovak news agency subsequently carried the story, too.
Mode-S Data received from the aircraft's transponder make clear, that the aircraft transmitted valid transponder responses and broadcasts at all times throughout the flight, the GPS of the aircraft was confirmed working as the transponder transmitted correct position data via ADS-B at all times until after landing in Bratislava. The aircraft thus remained visible not only on primary but also secondary radar stations at all times. At no time the crew selected the codes for emergency or loss of communication into the transponder.
The aircraft did not depart for the return flight as usual and remained on the ground in Bratislava for 4 hours before returning to service. A replacement aircraft performed return flight FR-9027.
An inquiry by The Aviation Herald to Austria's Ministry of Defence of Oct 26th 2019 as well as an inquiry to Ryanair remained unanswered so far. Based on the clear contradiction of narrative in Slovak media by the facts on hand The Aviation Herald thus rejected the entire narrative even though the 4 hours ground time did not rule out a minor technical problem and/or incident (and thus did not rule out a loss of communication and possibly an intercept).
A non-Austrian reader of AVH also inquired with Austria's Ministry of Defence, who that way on Oct 30th 2019 confirmed a pair of Eurofighters had been dispatched on Oct 25th 2019 to intercept a Ryanair aircraft operating from Girona to Bratislava, no further details would be provided.
The time between the last climb from FL350 to FL360 and the top of descent was 31 minutes, the time from crossing into Austrian Airspace until top of descent about 16 minutes.
Earlier the month Austria's Airforce announced, there would be intercept training exercises over Austria, that could produce sonic booms all over Austria between Oct 21st 2019 and Oct 31st 2019.
On Nov 5th 2019 Ryanair's chief pilot told The Aviation Herald: "On 25th Oct FR9026 GRO-BTS encountered a technical problem onboard with radio handover when crossing from Milan to Vienna airspace. The flight entered Vienna airspace while remaining on the Milan frequency. When normal radio request for descent clearance failed, the crew regained contact with Italian Air Traffic Control and were immediately handed over to Austrian ATC. As is practice in cases of loss of communication, a military aircraft was dispatched and was stood down once normal communications resumed."
The Aviation Herald had sent a query to Ryanair's press office as well as the chief pilot on Oct 28th 2019, but did not receive a reply. After we released our coverage we received a puzzled e-mail by Ryanair's chief pilot's office on Nov 1st 2019 about why we had reported Ryanair as non-responsive. That way it became apparent, that a good number of e-mails before and after had been lost though Ryanair's e-mail server had received and accepted the mails (an investigation about the cause of the loss of those e-mails is underway). In the end we managed to get our questions through resulting in the statement above.
On Nov 6th 2019 Austria's Bundesheer/Luftraumüberwachung responded to our mail of Oct 26th 2019 stating that the communication device of the Ryanair aircraft from Girona to Bratislava failed at about 08:00L (06:00Z) prompting the dispatch of two Eurofighters from Zeltweg (Austria) to identify the aircraft. The fighter pilots established visual contact with the Ryanair 737 and escorted the aircraft within Austrian Airspace. At 08:15L the Boeing 737 re-established contact with WIEN Radar and were able to continue their flight according to plan and without any further incident. The Boeing 737 was picked up already outside of Austrian Airpace by Austrian Military Radar systems and remained visible until after exiting Austrian Airspace.
Aircraft Registration Data
Date of incident
Oct 25, 2019
ICAO Type Designator
This article is published under license from Avherald.com. © of text by Avherald.com.
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