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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Air near miss for sake of photo
A jet owned by German company Condor
Condor is owned by British company Thomas Cook
A British plane was forced to take evasive action after a German jet came within 180m (600ft) over the Atlantic - allegedly for the sake of a photo.

Investigations are under way into the incident between two planes, which were carrying more than 400 people.

Media report that the pilot of the German jet wanted to get close enough to get a picture of the other plane's pilot, whom he mistook for a colleague.

The German airline, Condor, has reportedly suspended two pilots.

It is reported that the Condor captain left his official route to try to approach another Condor jet, whose pilot was flying his last flight.

But the second Condor jet was 160km (100 miles) ahead and the pilot approached a British Thomas Cook flight by mistake.

Warning alarms

Both planes were bound for Canada on 24 June when they had their close encounter, 500km off the Canadian coast.

At an altitude of 9,000m (30,000ft), the Condor captain, with 234 passengers on board, rose from below until he was 180m below the British jet and less than 1km behind it.

The two planes' proximity set off warning alarms in both aircraft, forcing them to take emergency measures.

The Thomas Cook jet, with 187 passengers on board, went into a steep climb, while the Condor pilot was forced to dive.

Planes are not supposed to come within 300m vertically, or 96km if they are at the same height.

'Not chuffed'

The incident was discussed at length on the airline industry gossip website, Professional Pilots' Rumour Network.

One entry said: "Seems Condor arranged a little mid-pond rendezvous with his buddy on the crossing last week. Popped up to take a snap and wave hello.

"Unfortunately his mate was 100 miles ahead and the actual aircraft above had to react... Thomas Cook not over chuffed," the writer said, using British slang meaning pleased.

The British airline called its pilot, a former RAF Harrier pilot according to the Daily Mail newspaper, a "hero" for his action in taking rapid evasive measures.

Condor - which is owned by Thomas Cook - said: "Our plane deviated from its cleared routing and altitude. We cannot comment on other allegations."

It said two pilots had been suspended, while aviation authorities had launched investigations.

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