Ryanair flight triggers first NATO interception of 2022

Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum

After a Ryanair Boeing 737 lost contact with air traffic controllers, two Portuguese F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters scrambled to intercept the aircraft and reestablish communication. 

The aircraft, registered as EI-HAW, was performing flight FR8132 from London-Stansted International Airport (STN) in the United Kingdom to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) on the Spanish Canary Islands. 

While the airplane was cruising over the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon, the flight crew lost radio contact with the Portuguese ATC. Consequently, two F-16 fighters of the Portuguese Air Force took off from Monte Real Air Base (QLR). The base hosts the 51st Operational Group (GO51) composed of two F-16 squadrons. 

Contact was reestablished by the fighters, who asked the flight crew if they were operating normally. After a visual inspection of the cockpit, a new frequency was given to the Ryanair pilots, and the flight continued without further incident. 

The incident marked the first NATO interception of 2022. The alliance reported that fighter jets of its member states were solicited around 370 times across Europe in 2021. Roughly 290 were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft, compared to 350 the year before. 


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