A bungling pilot sparked a mass panic at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport last night by accidentally sending a hijack alert during a lesson with a trainee, it has been claimed.
Dutch military police raced to the scene on Wednesday evening following the alert, setting up cordons and warning passengers to stay away from the area.
‘Terrified’ passengers spoke of screaming at the airport and ‘armed police running about’ as the area was locked down amid reports of an attack.
But moments afterwards, Air Europa released a statement saying that it was all a ‘false alarm’ and that the warning was activated by mistake.
It has now emerged that the code for a hijacking may have been entered while a pilot was trying to explain to a trainee how to use the transponder, according to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
Pilots can send signals using a transponder in the event of emergency situations, such as a hijacking, a loss of communication or an emergency. But these must be entered using a four-digit code.
But aviation experts have cast doubt on this view, saying that you can only enter the emergency codes if the radio is not working – and the transponder cannot ordinarily be used while the plane is on the ground.
Revealing the ‘false alarm’ on a flight from Amsterdam to Madrid, Air Europa said in a tweet: ‘This afternoon by mistake an alert was activated which sets off a protocol response to airport hostage situations.’
‘Nothing has happened and all passengers are fine and waiting to fly soon. We’re sorry.’
Dutch police said passengers and crew had disembarked safely following the incident, following reports of panic and ‘screaming’ in the airport.
One passenger told Mail Online: ‘Nobody knows what is happened here, there was a lot of screaming going on and armed police running about.
‘It’s quite a frightening experience as we are behind a cordon unable to move for our own safety as police is everywhere.’
There were earlier reports of a knifeman having tried to hijack the aircraft, but it has now emerged the panic button was hit accidentally.
‘Passengers and crew are safely off the plane,’ the Royal Military Police, which deals with ports and airports, said on Twitter without giving further details. ‘Investigation on site continues.’
The police service had earlier said it was ‘investigating a suspect situation on board a plane at Schiphol.’
Dutch television station NOS said that it had involved a possible hijacking, without giving its sources, adding that the captain of the plane had pressed a hijacking alarm.
The plane was carrying 27 passengers, it said.
‘There is a suspicious situation and that’s all I can say,’ a spokesman for the military police earlier said.
He declined to name the airline involved or provide further details.
According to De Telegraaf, several sources say that the captain reported a ‘hijacking’ from the aircraft at some point. This has not been confirmed by official authorities.
Reports on Twitter suggest men armed with knives were trying to hijack an outbound flight.
Images on social media show passengers stood behind a cordon as police watch on.
One passenger said: ‘Masses of people have just been asked to move back further behind the security cordon.’
Schipol airport tweeted: ‘The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee is currently investigating a situation on board of a plane at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We will keep you posted.’
Emergency services have issued a so-called Grip 3 report.
This happens with ‘an incident or serious event with major consequences for the population’.
The airport had declared a ‘serious situation that can have a major impact on the population’, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.
It came as Terminal 2 in Malpensa Airport, Milan was evacuated amid reports of a suspicious package. The incident has now been resolved.