9/11 Fears as Rouge Plane Enters Turkish Air Space


(Gold9472: A 14 minute response time. Not bad for the Turkish Air Force. Maybe our Air Force could learn a few things from them.)

By Selim Kuvel
Published: Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkey experienced a real life security crisis like that of movie scenarios on November 3.

A 9/11-similar panic surfaced as an A-321 type German registered passenger plane leaving Egypt managed to proceed until Istanbul without providing any information to Turkish air control centers.

Reportedly, no contact was made with the plane that entered Turkey's Flight Information Region (FIR) from Antalya at 5:20 p.m. The situation was recognized when the airplane was over Afyon, a central Western city of Turkey. As no reply was received despite several calls, worries were that the plane would conduct a terrorist attack in Istanbul similar to the one against the US twin towers on 11 September 2001. Turkish Air Forces launched two warplanes from the Afyon Civil Defense Search and Rescue Troop at 5:34 p.m. The passenger plane, with an Egypt-Munich destination, flew in Turkish airspace for about 50 minutes but did not face any intervention. As the plane left Turkish airspace and entered the Bulgarian FIR, Turkish warplanes returned. According to regulation, any object to enter Turkish airspace will be forced to land or dropped by warplanes within the airspace between the two FIRs; unless it replies to the warnings made by the control tower.

There are two FIRs in Turkey, Istanbul and Ankara. The distance between these two is about 40 minutes. Aviation authorities point out this period was exceeded in this particular event, and defined such a situation as ‘a fiasco’ in terms of Turkish air security.

The Civil Aviation Directorate (SGHM) did not take notice of the incident that occurred between 5:20 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. on November 3. Only after the plane had crossed over Turkish airspace was the Directorate notified. The State Airports Authority (DHMI), an organization in charge of Air Traffic Control Centers, must immediately notify the SGHM on the course of events. SGHM officials confirmed they were not informed about the incident promptly, and that another unit of the organization gave them correct information. The DHMI officials also verified the failure to communicate with the Directorate. "It is true [that this has happened]; however, it is unbecoming of [the media] to leak it to the public. This is not an act done properly, no matter who did it," they disputed.

There are two main reasons for failure to communicate with an aircraft that flies within a particular country's FIR zone, said an expert on the condition of anonymity: "Number One: the pilot might have forgotten to adjust the frequencies to the FIR of a particular country. In this case, there is no way you can communicate with the plane. Number two: the aircraft might have lost air radio frequencies for technical reasons." Pilots working for Turkish Air Lines can sometimes forget to adjust frequencies, added the expert:

"When [the pilot] sees war planes of the country over whose airspace they happen to fly, the pilot fully understands how serious the situation is and makes the necessary frequency tune ups. This is the way we solve the problem. What worries us is that it is impossible to know the intention of the aircraft. If the pilot is malicious, if he changes the direction of flight and plunges; then the war plane shoots it down."

Rouge planes are hit if not landed.

What is FIR?

Flight Information Region (FIR) defines the area where planes pass from one flight zone to another. The FIR's responsible country is ultimately responsible for flight incidences

There are two FIR's in Turkey: one is Istanbul, the other is Ankara.
When the planes leave one of these zones, they change their frequency and tune it according to the next zone frequency and connect to the controller of that region.

FIR means the area which the radar covers in other words. When a plane goes out of radar range and enters another, it has to tune it according to the next Control Tower's frequency. Generally, small countries do not have FIRs.

Planes not responding to the tower are announced renegade.

According to the aviation authorities, air vessels not responding to repeated calls are announced as renegade. As the intent of these aircrafts is not known, they are forced to land with the help of fighter jets, or else they are hit in designated areas.