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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
Bomb threat forces Virgin diversion
Boeing 747
The plane was en route from London to Canada
A Virgin Airlines jumbo jet flying from Heathrow to New York had to be diverted to Canada following a bomb threat.

Four Canadian jet fighters escorted the aircraft - carrying 314 people - to an unscheduled landing in Newfoundland.

The four F-18s were sent up by the North American Aerospace Defence Command in the United States in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks, a spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said.


I really thought, this is it, we're going to explode and crash to the ground in flames

Pam Walker
Passenger
Passengers and crew were taken off the Boeing 747 by Canadian officials while they searched and screened the plane.

The threat was proved to be false, the Virgin spokesman said.

"Our passengers fully understand and support the decision. We feel in the current circumstances it was a prudent decision," he added.

The plane had been flying from Heathrow to New York's JFK International Airport.

It was escorted to a commercial-military airport in Goose Bay in northern Newfoundland at 2000BST on Monday.

'No panic'

Pam Walker, who was returning to the US after a holiday in England, said people on board the flight were terrified it would blow up.

"It was the scariest moment of my life," she said.

"I really thought, this is it, we're going to explode and crash to the ground in flames."

She said she was travelling with her husband Mike when the captain made the announcement they were diverting.

"He said 'a threat had been made against one of our planes'. We all knew he meant a bomb.

"There was no panic, but it was very, very frightening. I kept playing back scenes of those two planes exploding when they hit the World Trade Centre and feared that we too were about to blow up.

Apology

"I wasn't worried about hijacking, just about erupting into a fireball. I think many of us on board thought we would be the latest victims of the terrorist attacks."

The Virgin spokesman said the plane would resume its flight to New York on Tuesday afternoon.

He added: "We diverted because of a threat to the aircraft which has fortunately proved to be a false alarm.

"We apologise to passengers but I am sure that they will understand that in the current climate the airline and security authorities took the decision that we would prefer to divert and search the aircraft."


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See also:

18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair to visit US
18 Sep 01 | Europe
Minister to meet airline heads
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