Saturday, 7 April 2018

Man arrested after fake bomb threat on Scoot flight to Thailand

By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent and Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 6 Apr 2018

A 41-year-old man has been arrested for making a false bomb threat on board a Scoot flight from Singapore to Hat Yai, Thailand, which resulted in the plane returning to Changi Airport.

Flight TR634, which left Changi Airport at 1.20pm, was escorted back by two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG jets. This is protocol for such incidents, The Straits Times understands.

The flight landed without incident at 3.23pm. A Scoot spokesman said the aircraft was carrying 173 passengers and six crew members.

The police said preliminary investigations indicated that the suspect claimed he had a bomb in his carry-on baggage to a member of the flight crew. The pilot then decided to turn the plane back to Singapore.

A thorough security search was carried out on board the plane and the baggage of the suspect and his two travelling companions was examined. But no suspicious articles were found.

The Straits Times understands that the suspect is Singaporean.

He was arrested under Regulation 8(1) of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations, which states that it is an offence for a person to make false claims that a terrorist act has been, is being or will be carried out.

Those found guilty can be punished with a fine not exceeding $500,000 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.



The bogus bomb threat caused delays to passengers both in Singapore and Hat Yai.

Passengers on Flight TR634 bound for Hat Yai were finally able to depart again at about 6.30pm after the aircraft was declared safe after investigations and associated procedures were concluded.

Student Daryl Koh, 18, was in Hat Yai waiting to board the return Scoot flight back to Singapore.

Passengers were initially told that the delay was due to technical issues. He said: "We didn't expect a flight delay, and certainly not a bomb threat."

In a Facebook post, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the two RSAF fighter jets took off within minutes after they were scrambled.

Dr Ng added that RSAF pilots are on standby round the clock, and that "every threat is considered real until proven otherwise".

This is the second such threat against a Singapore carrier in recent weeks.

Last month, a Singapore Airlines flight from Taipei to Singapore was delayed after a woman called the Taipei police hotline from a payphone, claiming there was a bomb on Flight SQ879.

The plane took off 25 minutes late after the threat was confirmed as a hoax.



















Scoot flight fake bomb threat: RSAF aircrew reveal details of encounter with plane
Training prepared us for task, says RSAF crew
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2018

Within minutes of being notified of an alleged bomb threat on board a Scoot plane on Thursday afternoon, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) scrambled two of its F-15SG fighter jets.

The four aircrew members who suited up and took off said it was only when they were airborne that they received details and further orders of the mission.

"We have gone through regular and rigorous training to ensure that we are always ready for the task," the crew said through the Defence Ministry.



Their job was to escort Scoot Flight TR634 back to Changi Airport. The plane had taken off at 1.20pm and was bound for Hat Yai in Thailand.

"Once we had successfully joined up with the Scoot plane, we established communications with the pilots through the assigned radio frequency, informing them that they were being escorted by the RSAF fighters and to comply with all our instructions," the F-15SG aircrew said.

"We also got the pilots' attention by flying close to the Scoot plane so that they could see us. We checked visually if there were any abnormal activities within the cockpit and the cabin. We then escorted the Scoot plane to land, while constantly ensuring that the pilots complied with all our instructions."

The flight landed without incident at 3.23pm.



The F-15SG aircrew said: "We perform operational standby duties on a regular basis. As a whole, the RSAF works with other national ministries and agencies to monitor the skies over Singapore and respond swiftly and decisively to potential air threats on a 24/7 basis."

The Scoot flight was carrying 173 passengers and six crew members.

The police said initial investigations revealed that a 41-year-old passenger on board had claimed to a member of the flight crew that he had a bomb in his carry-on baggage.

The pilot then decided to turn the plane back to Singapore.

A thorough security search was carried out on board the plane. The baggage of the suspect and his two travelling companions was also examined. But no suspicious articles were found.

The passenger was arrested under Regulation 8(1) of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations, which states that it is an offence for a person to make false claims that a terrorist act has been, is being or will be carried out.

Those who are found guilty can be punished with a fine not exceeding $500,000 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.

The bogus bomb threat caused passengers in both Singapore and Hat Yai to experience delays.

Passengers on Flight TR634 bound for Hat Yai were finally able to depart again at about 6.30pm that day after the aircraft was declared safe, following the conclusion of investigations and associated procedures.















Presence of fighters didn't alarm most people, says passenger
By Rachael Seow, The Straits Times, 7 Apr 2018

Passengers on a Scoot flight from Singapore to Hat Yai, Thailand, first realised something was amiss when the plane suddenly descended mid-flight on Thursday afternoon.

Things got even more puzzling when they saw through the windows two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG jets flying alongside the plane, which had left Singapore at 1.20pm.

However, instead of a sense of panic, the "atmosphere was calm", a passenger on board Flight TR634, who did not want to be named, told The Straits Times.

This was despite the passengers not being told what was happening.

The Scoot flight was carrying 173 passengers and six crew members.

The passenger added that "most people were more amused than alarmed" by the sight of the fighter jets, not knowing that the planes were part of security measures that kicked in because of an alleged bomb threat made by a fellow passenger.

"The cabin crew did not want to give answers when asked what was happening," he said.

He initially thought there might have been radio failure, which could have caused the pilots to lose contact with the air control tower, or that the pilots unknowingly deviated from the flight path.

A 41-year-old man who triggered the bomb scare, believed to be a Singaporean, was detained along with his two travelling companions after the Scoot plane returned to Changi Airport and landed without incident at 3.23pm.

The man was arrested under Regulation 8(1) of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations, which states that it is an offence for a person to make false claims that a terrorist act has been, is being or will be carried out.

Those found guilty can be punished with a fine not exceeding $500,000 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.

According to the police, the suspect told a flight crew member that he had a bomb in his carry-on baggage. The pilot was then quietly alerted, and he decided to turn the plane back to Singapore.

A thorough security search was carried out on board the plane, and the baggage of the suspect and his two travelling companions was examined. But no suspicious articles were found.

"The cabin crew wanted to move his bag but he said no because (there was a) bomb in the bag," said the passenger who declined to be named. The passenger, who was seated in the middle part of the plane, said he found out about this from the people who were seated in the front with the man.

No announcement was made about the plane returning to Singapore. The passenger said that when the plane was about to land, the pilots said "we are landing shortly at our destination", without saying what was the destination.

But the passenger said he knew they were back in Singapore because, among other things, he recognised Batam when he looked out of the window as the plane was descending, and that Singapore fighter jets can usually fly only within the country's airspace.



Many of the other passengers did not realise this until the plane had touched down, he said.

"We found out what was happening only after we were on the ground. Even until then, the pilots said nothing. We were on the ground (in the plane) for some time. Many passengers were unhappy because they wanted to walk around to stretch their legs and go to the toilet. But the crew didn't allow them. Everyone had to be seated," he said.

The passenger added that he thought the bomb hoax was merely "meant as a joke".

"Even if the crew wanted to keep the reason (for turning back) a secret, the passengers should have still been informed of the plans ahead or the intentions," he said. "Our lives are also at stake. We have the right to know. They can always say they will let us know the reason later."

The passenger said that even if the crew did not want to inform other people on board for fear of alerting the alleged aggressor, he was certain the aggressor would have been able to see the F-15 jets and realise something was wrong.

"No information was shared with the passengers, and I think that is not very right. We could all face this together," he said.



Passengers on Flight TR634 were finally able to depart Singapore for Hat Yai again at about 6.30pm later that day, after the aircraft was declared safe following investigations and associated procedures were concluded.

"We were delayed for 5½ hours in total. And my travel plans for the day had to be changed," the passenger said, adding that he was on holiday and had to skip a place he planned to visit. "Others chose not to continue to Hat Yai."

When contacted by The Straits Times, Scoot declined to share details of the incident, citing confidentiality of its security protocols and that investigations were under way.

The airline added that it would offer all affected passengers on the flight a $50 flying voucher due to the delay they experienced.


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