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FR4978 ATH-VNO diverted, escorted to Minsk, alleged bomb threat – but was it?

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FR4978 ATH-VNO diverted, escorted to Minsk, alleged bomb threat – but was it?

Old 31st May 2021, 08:01
  #241 (permalink)  
 
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IIRC the Belarus president himself said in a speech he had ordered a fighter to intercept the flight in order to protect his people from any possible terrorist act or danger. A fighter can be a threat without being seen just by being there.
As I have not seen any trustworthy uncut ATC records and the time lines are disputable they might have just mentioned the fact that a fighter is on his way to the crew to strengthen their point or similar.
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Old 31st May 2021, 09:25
  #242 (permalink)  
 
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"I know this sounds very pedantic but whilst the article gets top marks for presentation many of us here will hear alarm bells ringing when they see the author use "loops" in the context they have done. It might also bring into question how accurate the rest of the piece is (I see in the comments somebody has a gripe about the author switching between UTC and local, UTC plus 2)."

I'm not sure that a recruitment agency's website would ever be my first port of call if looking for a definitive account of an incident.
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Old 31st May 2021, 12:38
  #243 (permalink)  
 
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Finally, Ukraine closed its airspace for Belavia. Now that's a hard punch, giving them the extra mile.
https://en.belavia.by/news/4732109/

Last edited by xcris; 31st May 2021 at 15:24.
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Old 31st May 2021, 13:00
  #244 (permalink)  
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wiggy

Surely that is just a second language / translation issue? loop vs circling vs orbit, something like that.
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Old 31st May 2021, 13:58
  #245 (permalink)  
 
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It may well be but IMHO if your intended audience is aviation professionals or potential/aspiring aviation professionals you need to get the technical language correct...
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Old 31st May 2021, 20:51
  #246 (permalink)  
 
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Less Hair

What's your source for that statement?

This president says many things, because he is an unstable lunatic, but nowhere have I seen any official statement from him saying this. The official reason for the fighter have been many explanations, but so far no proof of any fighter intercepting the aircraft.
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Old 31st May 2021, 21:06
  #247 (permalink)  
 
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It was in practice the first thing that was reported by the main belarus government media:

https://eng.belta.by/president/view/...t-140132-2021/

Also it is noteworthy that "president ordered the u-turn himself". So, how independently did the crew make the diversion decision?
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 05:50
  #248 (permalink)  
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wiggy

i see your point , but since you quote me , my own use of the word “ loops” was meant as “loopholes in the Belarus story “not referring to the alleged holding pattern in the article. Most of us here are not native English speakers, so is probably the writer of the article, but despite the use of the wrong term his recap of facts known so far and above all where they came from is very well done .
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Old 1st Jun 2021, 06:11
  #249 (permalink)  
 
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Less Hair
What's your source for that statement?
I seem to remember some official video or sound file of a speech of the president (maybe in Belarus parliament like at a speakers stand or similar) where he elaborated quite lengthy on how he ordered a fighter to intercept the flight and protect the people of Belarus from terrorist attacks. It was like "I ordered..." however translated.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 16:20
  #250 (permalink)  
 
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I think you will discover that it was something along the lines, that he ordered fighter to assist (escorting them in and later out of Belarus) - And Lukashenko did this out of his gracious great heart to prevent a terrorist attack in Lithuania / Vilnius.
There is some disconnect here in the logic / logical thinking, so Lukashenko (ATC Belarus), convinced the RYR crew, that they rather have the RYR flight with a bomb divert over Belarussian land / city to a Belarussian airport, risking that the aircraft / bomb could detonate over Belarusia, in a flight that was at least double the distance from diverting to Kaunus in Lithuania.

Normal SOP's for bomb threat is LAND AS SOON POSSIBLE, so the question is why did the crew not follow this SOP? Why would you risk flying double the time you needed into a country that is run by a dictator, and the issue was only if going to Vilnius according to Belarus ATC transcript.

When did ATC dictate what actions you take during a Mayday?
I thought a Mayday call meant that you call the shots, what is the safest outcome for the flight / crew / passengers? Judging by the outcome, this was not the safest option, and this is mainly due to lack of equipment on the aircraft for the crew to get the information they needed, to know they were actually being hijacked by Lukashenko's KGB.

This shows how easy now for a potential future terror attack, by being able to get access the ATC frequency, you can give ATC orders to an aircraft that will go unchallenged, because the airline has no way to assess a security threat while they are in the air, as they are unable to contact their airlines security team, who would involve assessing the credibility of such a security risk.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 18:01
  #251 (permalink)  
 
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There was a similar assumption when that Norwegian landed in Iran.
Am I the only one who couldn't care less about politics and international relations between countries?
I didn't even know Bielorussia was a dictatorship (depending from the point of view)
It remains a despicable act of terrorism by an entire country, and don't try to shift the blame onto the crew by saying they should have known.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 18:06
  #252 (permalink)  
 
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Germany has revoked the permit for Russian airlines to fly to German destinations until Lufthansa gets it's monthly Russian permit for the month of June that had not been issued yet.

P.S.
Sounds like everybody is flying again.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 19:38
  #253 (permalink)  
 
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The Ryanair security team should have known, and if the crew had been able to contact their companies Security team, they would have been better informed to make a judgement. As I am pretty sure the Security team of Ryanair would have known the geopolitical situation. The airline has failed both their crew and even more importantly their passengers, as there was no access for their crew to communicate with their Security team, to be able to assess if this was indeed a credible security threat.

"I didn't even know Bielorussia was a dictatorship (depending from the point of view)"

No it does not really depend on your point of view, just because you are ignorant on the issue, does not mean we need to go the "both sides of the story" route here.

My understanding is that this was Vilnius based crew, so unless they have not followed the news the last 9 months, they would know there are great tensions between Belarus, Russia and Lithuania at the moment, as most of the opposition to Lukashenko has fled to Lithuania, to be in safety.

The facts are the facts, the crew did not take the shortest route to safety. From the transcript it is reasonable to assume that the crew was hesitant, and unless there is more compelling evidence available, it does seem they got coerced by ATC to divert to a destination that most definitely was not the best Option available, and the penny pinching Ryanair has some part to play with how this all ended unfortunately.


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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 21:29
  #254 (permalink)  
 
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The post above is rubbish - crews were overflying Belarus all of the time from various countries - it has significant routes to the Far East. I myself have been up the pointy end over their airspace and not had a problem. VNO’s approach is very much within their airspace if you’re coming from the south and it’s only a short distance to the border.

FWIW EASA in the last few mins has just released a SD for operating in their FIR albeit not adding much new.
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Old 2nd Jun 2021, 22:39
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It remains a despicable act of terrorism by an entire country, and don't try to shift the blame onto the crew by saying they should have known.​
May I ask your definition of terrorism ?

Definitely unacceptable to use ATC to "trick" an aircrew but terrorism !? Why not genocide ? Crime against humanity ?

Let's be serious for 2 min.
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 00:07
  #256 (permalink)  
 
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EASA issues Safety Directive calling on Member States to mandate avoidance of Belarus airspace

Link to EASA announcement:
EASA issues Safety Directive calling on Member States to mandate avoidance of Belarus airspace | EASA (europa.eu)

Text of announcement - which includes internal link to the SD document:

"The European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued Safety Directive 2021-02, calling on the National Competent Authorities in EASA member states to instruct aircraft operators with their principal place of business in their territories that conducting operations in Belarus airspace (FIR Minsk) is no longer allowed, unless required for safe operations in unforeseen circumstances. The safety objective of the SD, which was published in consultation with the EASA Member States and the European Commission, is to reduce the potential risk to passengers and crews that could arise from operations in this airspace. This follows the incident involving Ryanair flight FR4978 on May 23, 2021. The SD will be reviewed as circumstances require and in any case at intervals of no more than one month.

The NCAs are required to put these measures in place within two days of the effective date of the SD and to inform EASA of the steps taken.

EASA had earlier issued a Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) with respect to operations in Belarus airspace. The SIB has the status of a recommendation directly to operators, whereas the SD recommends mandatory action by the National Competent Authorities for those operators."

EASA SD No.: 2021-02

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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 05:29
  #257 (permalink)  
 
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A B738 has at least 2 VHF radios onboard, so irrespective of RYR not having ACARS they should easily and rapidly have been able to call Vilnius on VHF 2 since they were within minutes from entering Vilnius FIR.
Did they contact Vilnius? If no, why not?

When you see a doctor and you get bad news, you seek a second opinion. In this case, a call to Vilnius to see whether they had received the threat etc would shed light on the seriousness of the situation and give the crew some credible options.

And why not divert to Kaunas in Lithuania? Friendly skies, an easy bus ride for the pax to Vilnius, RYR base etc...

For myself, as an experienced commander, the only thing that would have me going to MSQ would be a visible, immediate threat such as a MiG with missiles dictating me to follow..
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 05:42
  #258 (permalink)  
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It remains a despicable act of terrorism by an entire country, and don't try to shift the blame onto the crew by saying they should have known.​
May I ask your definition of terrorism ?
So if an aircraft gets hijacked, flown to a different destination and the hijackers surrender taking only one hostage with them - that's not terrorism?

Normal SOP's for bomb threat is LAND AS SOON POSSIBLE, so the question is why did the crew not follow this SOP? Why would you risk flying double the time you needed into a country that is run by a dictator, and the issue was only if going to Vilnius according to Belarus ATC transcript.
This crew were told that if they flew to Vilnius that their aircraft would explode - what did you expect them to do?
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 09:26
  #259 (permalink)  
 
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Willowrun, could you please enlighten some of us regarding the meaning of: ....Recomended Corrective Action....... and ...NCAs should ensure.... (not: SHALL ensure) Is that an order to EU member States that MUST be executed, or is this still a reccomendation, allowing individual Member State to decide on its own. I am over 30 years in aviation, but this language to me looks like a proverbial "wooden stone" that I cannot understand. (I am not an English native speaker)
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Old 3rd Jun 2021, 12:37
  #260 (permalink)  
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I did read the transcript again:

Pilot:09:39:30: RYR 1TZ Any adverts?

ATC: RYR 1TZ Standby, waiting for the information.

Pilot: Could you say again that I have to call for the airport that authorities ...(unreadable) to divert to..

ATC: RYR 1TZ I read you THREE, say again please.

Pilot:09:39:57: Radar, RYR 1TZ .

ATC : RYR 1TZ ,Go.

Pilot: Can you say again the IATA code of the airport that authorities recommended us to divert to?

ATC: RYR 1TZ roger, standby please.

Pilot: OK, I give you (unreadable) can you say again IATA code of the airport that authorities have recommended us to divert to?

ATC: RYR 1TZ Standby.

Pilot: Standby, Roger.

ATC :09:41:00: RYR 1TZ .

Pilot: Go ahead.

ATC: IATA code is MSQ.

Pilot: can you say again please?

ATC:IATA code MSQ.

Pilot: MSQ, thanks.

Pilot: 09:41:58: RYR 1TZ Again, this recommendation to divert to Minsk where did it come from?Where did it come from?Company? Did it come from departure airport authorities or arrival airport authorities?

ATC: RYR 1TZ this is our recommendations.
They were not told to fly to Minsk, they were recommended by an ATC who probably was at gun point with Lukashenko's KGB.
The subtleties of 'told' vs 'recommended' are important here.

Again consider this: you're flying, the only person you're talking to says you have a bomb on board and you should turn for Minsk - imagine you then say "no thanks, we're going to fly NEAR to where we've been told we shouldn't go", the bomb goes off and you somehow survive? What sort of reception do you think you'd receive?

Not saying it entered their heads (or that it would enter mine at the time) but turning away from the perceived threat location towards somewhere you're being enticed to seems pretty reasonable to me. More importantly, until now, it seems that no-one or very few have considered that ATC could be co-opted into abetting an act of terrorism. Until this fades from collective memory, you can be certain the next crew in this situation might consider the potential political interference in the situation more critically and make a different choice.

The one bit I don't get is how they had no idea how to contact their own ops department - 100km or so way from home?
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