Jet Airways intercept video "UFO" (airliner, flight LH998 or LH66?)

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
The video of a Jet Airways flight being intercepted by German fighter jets is causing a bit of interest on social media, both due to the very visible contrails (enhanced by the video being filmed near sunset) and by the appearance of a "UFO":

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJALftSN0ek



Flight 9W118 from Mumbai to London on February 16th 2017, a Boeing 777, was intercepted after it failed to respond to air traffic control on the correct frequency over Germany.

The video was shot from a British Airways 777 flying behind it and 2,000 feet higher (flight BA2042).

The "UFO" appears to fly from left to right (and slightly "forwards", ie towards the same direction as the filming plane rather than perpendicular) from around 1:26 in the video:

upload_2017-2-20_19-49-17.png

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Based on an article in the Aviation Herald, the intercept occurred somewhere around 1600 to 1630UTC: http://avherald.com/h?article=4a51a0a5

A Jet Airways Boeing 777-300, registration VT-JEX performing flight 9W-118 from Mumbai (India) to London Heathrow,EN (UK) with 330 passengers and 15 crew, was enroute at FL360 being handed over from Bratislava (Slovakia) to Prague (Czech Republic) Center when radio contact was lost with the aircraft, that continued along its planned/cleared flight track. Germany dispatched two Eurofighters to intercept the aircraft, the fighter aircraft were already airborne when radio contact with 9W-118 was restored via the emergency frequency about 60nm north of Nuremberg (Germany). Although radio contact was re-established, the fighter aircraft continued the intercept, ATC informed 9W-118 as well as the aircraft flying above and behind 9W-118 about the pending intercept. About 20nm north of Cologne (Germany) 9W-118 was seen accompanied by two fighter aircraft. 9W-118 continued to London for a safe landing.

On Feb 19th 2017, following release of initial coverage, The Aviation Herald received information that radio contact with the aircraft had been lost on hand off from Bratislava to Prague Center, a swap of digits is being suspected (the crew tuned 132.980MHz while the correct frequency was 132.890MHz). Germany dispatched two Eurofighter Aircraft when the Boeing 777 entered Germany's Airspace. Radio contact with the aircraft was restored about 60nm north of Nuremberg, the fighter aircraft began to slow down expecting the intercept would be aborted, a decision was made however to continue and complete the intercept. Air Traffic Control informed 9W-118 as well as the other aircraft, flying above and behind 9W-118, about the pending intercept. The fighter aircraft met with 9W-118 northeast of Frankfurt (Germany) and were seen by ground observers at about 16:50Z about 20nm north of Cologne still at the side of 9W-118.

On Feb 20th 2017 Air Navigation Services Czech Republic reported, that the actual communication for the hand off from Bratislava to Prague at 15:53Z had been correct (frequency 132.890MHz transmitted and acknowledged), however, the crew subsequently tuned frequency 132.980MHz, the crew did not monitor the emergency frequency. Prague Center spotted another Jet Airways aircraft, flight 9W-122 from Delhi (India) to London Heathrow, flying under control of Rhein Control (Germany) south of the Czech Republic, via Rhein Control and 9W-122 an ACARS message was transmitted to 9W-118 asking them to contact (Prague Center) frequency 132.065MHz. When 9W-118 reported on that frequency at 16:26Z (loss of communication thus lasted for 33 minutes), the aircraft was already in German Airspace and was instructed to contact Rhein Control. Czech ATC immediately informed their military counterpart (Czech control and reporting center) that contact had been re-established.

The airline confirmed that contact between aircraft and ATC was briefly lost while flying over Germany. Contact was restored a few minutes later. Germany's Air Force deployed their aircraft to ensure safety of aircraft and its occupants. Both pilots have been de-rostered pending investigation.
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I have looked on Planefinder at the track of the aircraft in question. The BA plane is clearly seen to be following the same flight path, 2,000ft above and a short distance behind flight 9W118. The only flight I can find around this time that fits the path of the "UFO" is flight LH998, which passed from left to right ahead and below the BA and 9W planes, at 19,700ft, on a path roughly "2 o'clock" relative to the filming plane. This altitude would put it almost 20,000ft below the filming aircraft, but still likely above the cloud deck, which appears to be middle altitude cloud (altocumulus?) which is typically below 20,000ft.


upload_2017-2-20_19-43-35.png


Playback on Flightradar24 has the planes in slightly different relative positions, with flight LH66 (also shown as DLH2MJ) also crossing in front of the Jet Airways plane, making this another possible contender for the "UFO":

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How do the CTers explain an Indian passenger jet, full of people, with an absent-minded pilot, and two, armed, German fighter jets on a 'mission' spraying the same bit of air? I am not on Facebook myself..
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
How do the CTers explain an Indian passenger jet, full of people, with an absent-minded pilot, and two, armed, German fighter jets on a 'mission' spraying the same bit of air? I am not on Facebook myself..

Well, the photo from the ground shows that the contrails are not persistent, so they are using that as their get-out clause. (Although the video from the air shows that even those non-persistent trails are pretty large!)
 

Tedsson

Member
Isn't the "UFO" the second Luftwaffe jet climbing to meet the errant flight.

The BA pilot says "there's the other guy" at about 1.28.

Presumably he knew that there were two Luftwaffe jets in the air or his radar told him.

It is doubtful they registered on Flightradar24.
 

TEEJ

Senior Member.

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
there;s quite a gap between the "UFO" going left to right and the appearance of the second Eurofighter. Could that be the Eurofighter climbing which then circled round to come in from behind the airliner?
It could, but I don't see why they would do that. And we know there was another plane at the right altitude and heading in the right direction to match.
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
It could, but I don't see why they would do that. And we know there was another plane at the right altitude and heading in the right direction to match.
I would have thought that circling round and coming from behind would be the most obvious thing to do. If you have to shoot it down it's the best firing position and if you don't it helps prevent a head on collision. but as you said, there is another plane it could easily be
 

Tedsson

Member
The Typhoons were from the Luftwaffe QRA airfield in Neuberg (according to the Luftwaffe website).

Looking at the flightradar24 image Neuberg is south east of the 777 near Marburg and an intercepting Typhoon would be on the same heading as the "UFO".

It's the BA pilots comment that fascinates me.
 

sharpnfuzzy

Active Member
It's not one of the typhoons. They would have flown in formation all the way to the intercept. The wingman would not leave his lead to fly out in front of the target especially since staying behind them gives a positional advantage. They should have known that the target wasn't a threat but they still would have been practicing their intercept tactics as if it was.
 

Efftup

Senior Member.
It's not one of the typhoons. They would have flown in formation all the way to the intercept. The wingman would not leave his lead to fly out in front of the target especially since staying behind them gives a positional advantage. They should have known that the target wasn't a threat but they still would have been practicing their intercept tactics as if it was.
That makes sense. Although splitting up would allow them to search a wider area faster, it is not tactically sensible. ( any more than it ever is in a thriller/horror film)
 

Auldy

Senior Member.
That makes sense. Although splitting up would allow them to search a wider area faster, it is not tactically sensible. ( any more than it ever is in a thriller/horror film)

They werent searching for it though. They new exactly where it was and at what altitude, so they would have made a direct route to the target, no need to split up here.
 
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