ONE of the pilots of a Saudia Airlines plane pressed an emergency button in the cockpit by mistake, forcing airport officials to believe the plane was being hijacked and ordered it to land in an isolated spot in Manila on Tuesday afternoon.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said Saudia Flight SV872 from Jeddah, with 300 passengers on board, sent a distress signal at 2:13 p.m. and was immediately given priority to land at 2:38 p.m.
Officials said a pilot used that code if he believed a hijacking was taking place on board, but it turned out later that someone in the cockpit pressed the emergency button twice by mistake.
They said the incident was being investigated, and that appropriate penalties and sanctions would be imposed on the erring pilot.
In an initial advisory, a staff of the MIAA Media Affairs Division said “20 miles before landing, MIAA ESD received advice from Manila Control Tower that Saudia Airlines Flight SV872 is under threat.”
Minutes later, departing and arriving passengers expressed fears that an international flight had been hijacked by terrorists.
The arrival of about 50 police and aviation officials later added to the tension after they surrounded the plane.
Manila International Airport Authority general manager Eddie Villanueva Monreal later said the plane’s crew informed airport authorities that the distress call was a mistake.
“¨“Upon landing, the flight crew said they made a mistake but we can never play around with safety and security,” Monreal said.
“The button was pushed twice accidentally.”
Saudi Arabian Airlines also said the alarm was false.