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- Incident with NATO plane described as a massive threat to aviation security”.
- Two Austrian fighter jets scrambled to escort Hungarian aircraft.
- The incidents sparks sharp rebuke from Vienna.
In an incident that the Austria’s Federal Ministry of Defense described as a “massive threat to aviation security,” two Eurofighter jets had to be scrambled on Friday to intercept and escort a Hungarian NATO aircraft that took an unexpected nosedive during a scheduled flight over Austrian territory.
The incident has sparked a sharp rebuke from Vienna. Austrian Defense Ministry said that the nation’s airspace is violated between 30 and 50 times a year on average. Still, this incident apparently stands out in the Austrian military’s judgement since ministry’s spokesman warned vaguely that it would likely have “diplomatic consequences.”
According to the Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Colonel Michael Bauer, no such incident has happened over Austria “in the past 20 years,” and the Hungarian aircraft captain “behaved like a wrong-way driver on a motorway.”
The unexpected descent happened during an approved routine flight over Austrian territory by a Hungarian four-engine C-17 military transport aircraft with NATO identification.
While the aircraft had entered Austrian airspace on a valid overflight permit, it gradually drifted down from the prescribed altitude of between 10,000 and 11,000 meters and, by the time it was flying over the Attersee Lake east of the city of Salzburg, its altitude was just around 1,000 meters.
The maneuver alarmed the Austrian military, which sent fighter jets to escort the wayward aircraft away.
The reasons for the sudden nosedive are still unclear. Neither NATO nor Hungary have commented on the incident as of yet.