Bomb Threat Causes EL AL 787 Fighter Jet Escort

Filed Under: El Al

Yesterday I first wrote about a rather alarming situation that unfolded on an EL AL flight a couple of days ago, and we now have more details of what happened.

EL AL flight received a bomb threat

This incident involves an April 29 EL AL flight from New York to Tel Aviv. Flight LY2 was operated by a Boeing 787-9 with the registration code 4X-EDH, which is a roughly two year old aircraft that was delivered to the airline in October 2018.

While the plane was in the air, US authorities received a phone call warning that there was a bomb on the plane — “I’m telling you there’s a bomb on the plane,” a caller allegedly said.

While there were questions of the legitimacy of the call, the pilots, Israeli security agencies, and others, were informed of this. While flying over Spain, the EL AL pilots informed air traffic control about the bomb threat, which is when the situation was escalated.

A bomb threat was called in for an EL AL flight from New York

Fighter jets were dispatched to escort EL AL 787

As a result of the information provided, NATO allegedly made the decision to dispatch fighter jets, which intercepted and escorted the EL AL 787. Fighter jets from four different countries took part in this:

  • Spanish fighter jets escorted the aircraft from Spain to Italy
  • Then Italian fighter jets escorted the aircraft from Italy to Greece
  • Then Greek fighter jets escorted the aircraft through Greek airspace
  • Then when the plane entered Cyprus airspace, Israeli fighter jets escorted the aircraft back to Israel

Fortunately the plane landed safely in Tel Aviv about four hours after the original call was made to air traffic control about a bomb, and just under 10 hours after departing New York.

After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, searches were conducted of the plane, but nothing was found, so it was determined that this was a false alarm.

The flight path for the EL AL flight that had this incident

I have some questions…

We now have more information about this incident than we did when details were first published, though I still have a few questions.

First of all, if there’s a concern about a bomb being onboard, why would you keep flying for several hours rather than landing? Is there a fear that it’s pressure activated? If so, are there further precautions that can be taken when landing? I totally get that it was probably suspected that this was a fake threat, but logistical challenges aside, it still seems safer and cheaper to just land and search the plane than to dispatch multiple fighter jets, no?

Speaking of fighter jets, what exactly were they supposed to do, especially since we’re talking about an alleged bomb? Presumably it would be on the interior of the aircraft, so it’s not like they could do a visual inspection.

Lastly, it’s my understanding that passengers weren’t made aware of what’s going on, though I can’t help but wonder what was going on in the cabin? EL AL flights all have air marshals, so did they perform some sort of a cabin inspection inflight, or was it business as usual in the cabin?

An EL AL 787 had quite an eventful flight from New York to Tel Aviv

Bottom line

An EL AL Boeing 787 flying from New York to Tel Aviv had quite an eventful flight. Someone called in a bomb threat. While the pilots made the decision to continue the flight, they were escorted by at least four sets of fighter jets.

Fortunately the plane landed safely in Israel, and it was determined that there was no bomb (thank goodness).

  1. I am very sorry to hear about this.

    I agree with you Lucky, I am not sure what purpose the fighter jet escort serves?

    Considering the plane was flying over the EU territory, I don’t see why the plane didn’t land in Barcelona and a search could have occurred.

    Israel and Spain have strong diplomatic relations, I don’t see why Israeli security forces wouldn’t have let Spanish Authorities take control.

  2. Lucky, I have the same questions. However, I think there are several plausible answers. My sense is that problem solving in these scenarios tends to be exhaustive, and the escorts may have represented contingency planning for far worst scenarios that never played out. I suspect that intelligence personnel on and off the aircraft were gathering information to better assess the true threat and the escorts represented a way to buy time and narrow down the best course of action.

  3. Fighters allow camera coverage in case a detonation occurs during flight, helps with investigation as to location on aircraft of explosive placement. Betting there is more to the story but will not allow another aircraft to be used again as a missile into a populated area after 9-11. Would have been ready to shoot down over water if intelligence warranted.

  4. I’m a retired international pilot for a major US carrier and a retired Mrine fighter pilot. You’re correct, the fighters were there for “contingency” purposes. Pax did not have a “need to know”, and time was needed to assess the threat.

  5. Ben, my comment is the same as the one I made about your story which talked about missile deflectors not being installed on certain EL AL types.

    Quite rightly, Israel doesn’t comment on this type of stories which, more often than not, are vastly inaccurate (the one on the missile shields certainly was).

    I am actually not sure that mentioning it at all in the OMAAT colums serves any useful purpose. It may discourage some weak minds from flying El Al, and I am sure that this is not your objective, but aside from this, what ?

  6. You state in the article that the pilots were the ones who informed ATC that they suspected a bomb on board. Does anyone know why they had reason to believe so?

  7. I’m sure the countries whose airspace was being overflown would insist on fighter escort with all the unknowns here. Surprised this didn’t get more media coverage.

  8. @Aussie

    Just another opportunity for hasbara to showcase how these poor Israelis are such victims of their Palestinian oppressors!

  9. They use fighter jets to keep this aircraft from flying over populated areas. If the aircraft deviates from the flight and heads towards metropolitan area, they will shoot it down.
    No other country wanted this aircraft to land in there country so they fly it back to the original Destination when possible.
    I highly doubt they told the passengers. The pilots always minimize emergencies.

  10. Zilfo’s Statement is as Stupid as the Rest of the Secular Humanist Jewish Haters of the World.
    I’m happy to know that all landed Safely.
    With no harm to anyone.

    I would feel the same if the plane was From Saudi Arabia, Greece Pakistan or EVEN Australia-

  11. @ Zilfo

    Funny how every story about Israel is used by extremists to start a discussion about the “poor” Palestinians.
    They were offered so many solutions for so long and always chose terror over peace. The Palestinians were heavily funded by Israel, the UN and other western countries with a dream to build a new nation that never existed before. The funds first met the deep pockets of their so called leaders and the little that was left was used to build an army of terrorists. Instead of building schools and hospitals, they built rockets factories. The Hammas (the leading terror organization in Gaza) moved their HQ under the only hospital in Gaza as they knew Israel is too humane to bomb it. Unlike Israel, the Palestinians never think twice when they come to kill an Israeli. They don’t care if it’s a child, an elderly, a kindergarten, a school, a hospital – all these are valid targets in their eyes. Only recently the Palestinian school curriculum was declared as radicalizing and teaching violence against Israel.
    Ask yourself just that:
    – Would you be willing to live in so called “Palestine”?
    – Would you be willing to be a Palestinian woman?
    – Would you be willing to send your kids to such schools where they will not learn science but instead will learn to use a gun and pray to be a “martyr” killing Israelis?
    Most if not all Israeli Arabs would never give a second thought about moving to an Arab country. Makes me wonder why. The answer if pretty simple and you know what it is.

  12. All great questions but since it involves tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) for dealing with a bomb threat or suspected IED onboard an aircraft, no one will provide official answers. The less an adversary knows about how you’re going to respond to an incident like this, it makes it harder for them to defeat your TTPs.

  13. @Pierre — it’s an airline/flying blog. Of course this serves a purpose and is logical for inclusion. You comment, however, is neither.

  14. Israeli news report that the threat came from US aviation control, who got a “tip” (by phone) from a person who regularly calls to report bombs on planes… ‍♂️

  15. It is probably a case were Israel is most equipped to handle this sort of thing since they been putting up with this sort of threats since the seventies.No I am not jewish in case your thinking of going there.

  16. In addition to escort, fighters also perform combat inspection of the aircraft. They can fly over and under to examine the aircraft’s exterior for tampering.

  17. Pawns – An unconfirmed report of a device on a commercial aircraft loaded with civilians with a coincidental flight path down the middle of a body of water dividing NATO and non NATO forces …… I believe that would be called a good excuse to conduct counter surveillance and patrol the neighborhood.

  18. The fighter jet escort? What if there were a hijacker aboard that hadn’t revealed themselves yet??

  19. There must have been something about the threat that was deemed credible. And more so with El Al

  20. (Pardon if a double entry) pawns – An unconfirmed report via telephone of a device on a commercial aircraft full of civilians having a flight path coincidentally transcending the middle of a body of water dividing NATO and Non-NATO forces where subsequently the flight lands on-time, bebops down the tarmac and right up to the gate with supposed device in tow. What’d they do? Find it, disarm it with a Radio Shack solder kit, roll down the window and toss it out midflight? Sounds more like a perfect excuse to patrol the neighborhood and conduct counter surveillance via protocol without sparking an international incident.

  21. @ TOM
    You are so wrong. You refer to Hammas but it is usually spelled Hamas. It is not hummus which is spelled with two M’s. I also agree with those Arabs that consider hummus to be an Arabic food.
    You are correct with your other points.

  22. @Tom

    Hey bubba and what ciriculum do you think the teachers are telling kids in Israel ? Arabs and Palestinians are bad. The USA turned away Jewish immigrants at Ellis Island only to be sent back to Europe and be killed in the Holocaust. America is bad. Zionism is good. All jews must move to Israel at once.

  23. @Tom: while I find the post by @Zifo out of line, your comment is equally bad. Posting Palestinian hate is no better than the anti Israel hate.

  24. I agree with Ray. Moreover, I would like to point out to you Tom that all those so called Israeli “solutions” involved creating a Palestinian state that would resemble more of Swiss cheese filled with Israeli settlements and checkpoints than a sovereign country.
    The only Israeli leader that was serious about peaceful solution, Isaac Rabin, was assassinated in 1995 by right-wing Israeli extremist and for all the talk about Netanyahu’s attempts to find the solution I have one comment: it’s a joke – Netanyahu is the world’s biggest liar and most people at least outside Israel and US see right through his political trickery of proposing talks and the very next day sabotaging them with authorization of new Israeli settlements in the Palestinian land.

  25. Probably standard. Had the experience a few years back on a flight from ORD-BRU. Lights were dimmed, stopped serving food and drinks, heat turned up (so everyone would go to sleep). No information at all. When we saw the fighter jets though it was kind of scary.

    The most satisfying fact was when we finally arrived back in ORD, SWAT boarded with dogs and very hard put the suspected passenger down to the ground. Turned out there was a letter with bomb threat punt in one of the food trolleys. Nothing found luckily. We had another night in ORD.
    So guess it’s safety and possibility to check outside of aircraft. Maybe worst case to force the plane down?

  26. Palestinian – Israeli conflict aside. Don’t get me started with NATO the US paid more than other countries the Orange man was right about that.

    Israel does not negotiate with terrorists so EL AL would never divert to another airport.

  27. It is very strange. If you suspect for a bomg you surely want to fly bellow 10.000 ft where you can depressurize the aircraft to avoid explosif depressurization in case of fuselage rapture. On the other hand fuel consuption bellow 10.000 ft is far greater. So it is very strange that they had the fuel to continue for more 4 hours flying in low level . Not forget that they should have enough fuel for 30 minutes holding patern plus fuel to alternative airport and to land with the minimum fuel according company’s policy.

  28. @D3kingg: I’ve been on El Al when it diverted to Greece with ” we need to pick up extra fuel” explanation. While there Israeli security moved me to another seat.
    Protecting a flight has nothing to do with negotiating with terrorists .

  29. El Al security is universally considered the industry’s gold standard. Passenger lists for every flight are thoroughly scrutinized, passengers themselves are interviewed by skilled El Al ground personnel before boarding, and baggage goes through rigorous screening. And those are just the steps the public knows about, though *how* El Al does what it does so well is less well known. The plane and its passengers were considered safe when the flight left New York. An anonymous call providing no credible details of this alleged threat after the plane had already crossed the Atlantic without incident was no reason to divert the flight four hours away from the safe harbor of Tel Aviv.

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