A British tourist plane heading in to land at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh came within 1,000 feet (300 metres) of a missile in August, newspapers reported Saturday.
The near-miss involved a Thomson Airways plane carrying 189 passengers from London on August 23. British authorities concluded it was not a “targeted attack.”
The incident happened around two months before a Russian tourist plane leaving the Red Sea resort plummeted from the sky into the Sinai Peninsula last Saturday, killing all 224 people onboard.
A spokesman for Britain’s Department for Transport (DfT) said of the August near-miss: “We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time.”
The Daily Mail newspaper said the Thomson Airways pilot took evasive action and landed safely. Holidaymakers were not told about the incident.
“The pilot was in the cockpit and saw the rocket coming towards the plane. He ordered the flight turn to the left to avoid the rocket, which was about 1,000 feet away,” the tabloid quoted a source as saying.
“Another Thomson plane was also flying into (Sharm el-Sheikh) at the same time and saw the rocket.
“The crew were told the rocket was from an Egyptian military exercise, but with what has happened there is a lot of fear. The incident left staff petrified.”
A Thomson spokesman said: “Thomson Airways can confirm that an event was reported by the crew of flight TOM 476 on August 23.
“Upon landing into Sharm el-Sheikh, an initial assessment was conducted and the event was immediately reported to the UK DfT in line with established protocol.
“The DfT conducted a full investigation in conjunction with other UK government experts.
“After reviewing the details of the case, the investigation concluded that there was no cause for concern and it was safe to continue our flying programme to Sharm-el Sheikh.”
In response to the Daily Mail report, foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid dismissed the allegations as “completely inaccurate.”
Quoted in local Egyptian media, Zeid said the military camp nearing Sharm el-Sheikh airport does not train with surface-to-air missiles, but only surface-to-surface, implying the missile could not have reached that altitude.
Britain suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday after saying it feared a bomb may have brought down the Russian jet, with Moscow following suit on Friday.
The resort is a popular destination with British and Russian holidaymakers, usually hosting some 20,000 Britons.
Moscow said Saturday that it still has nearly 80,000 nationals in Egypt but there will be no emergency evacuation, with tourists able to return at their own pace.
Thomson Airways has been repatriating Britons trying to return home following last weekend’s crash. The first such flights back to Britain landed on Friday.SHOW MORE