U.S. Fighter Jets Escort Korean Air Flight to Comox After Bomb Threat Amid Uhna-3 Rocket Tension
A Korean Air flight bound for Seoul from Vancouver with 134 passengers on board was diverted Tuesday and forced to land in Comox on Vancouver Island after a bomb threat was called into a U.S. call centre for the airline.
The plane, which now sits at Comox Airport, has a crew of 13, headed by Canadian pilot Stow Andrew Chisholm, for a total of 147 people on board.
The passengers and crew have been taken off the plane and into an airplane hangar where they are being interviewed by the RCMP, said Comox Mayor Paul Ives.
There were no obvious injuries and everyone is being taken care of,” said the mayor, who had just spoken to Comox’s fire chief. Police, fire crews and B.C. Ambulance paramedics are also on the scene.
“It’s too early to tell if they are staying the night or headed back to Vancouver,” Ives said, adding that 19 Wing Comox has enough space and sleeping quarters for the passengers and crew if that is necessary.
“They’ll be well looked after and if they need anything from the community they will certainly ask us,” Ives said.
Korean Air flight 72 was accompanied into Comox by U.S. air force F-15 fighter jets from Portland, Ore., according to the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
“Twenty-five minutes after take off from Vancouver International Airport, the U.S. call centre received a call that there was a threat on board the aircraft,” said Penny Pfaelzer, a spokeswoman for Korean Air, in an email statement on behalf of the airline. “After discussion with the related departments, we decided to turn the aircraft.”
The plane was diverted over Haida Gwaii, in northeastern B.C.
Following Canadian government regulations, the plane landed at Comox, Pfaelzer said. The airline will decide about continuing the flight after discussion with the airport and related authorities, the email said.
Military and commercial flights share the 10,000-foot runway at Comox Airport and 19 Wing, Canadian Forces Base Comox, military personnel operate the air control tower.
“Wing emergency personnel are responding to the location and are securing the aircraft in accordance with normal procedures,” said a news release from Lt. Trevor Reid, 19 Wing public affairs officer. “All emergency services on the Wing have been activated.”
The RCMP and 19 Wing are working closely together to respond to this situation, Reid said.
Ives said that if this situation had to happen in B.C., 19 Wing Comox is about the best group to handle it.
“I have full confidence in what they have to do,” Ives said. “They are highly trained professionals.” After Vancouver, Comox has the biggest runway and air force crew on site. However, were there ever a disaster at the site, the airport is close to residential areas.