Turkey has scrambled an F-16 jet to force down an airliner from Ukraine after a would-be hijacker on board ordered it to Sochi where the Winter Olympic opening ceremony was under way.
Turkish media reported that a Ukrainian man brandishing a detonator tried to gain access to the cockpit of the aircraft operated by Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines while it was in the air on Friday.
He was overpowered by security forces when the Boeing 737-800 airliner landed at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport at 6.05pm (5.05am on Saturday AEDT), and was taken to an undisclosed location for questioning.
“A Pegasus Airlines plane with 110 people on board had to land at Sabiha Gokcen airport because of a passenger who threatened passengers with a bomb,” Habib Soluk, deputy Turkish transport minister, said.
“We are sure that he didn’t enter the cockpit. We know that the aircraft was hijacked before it entered Turkish airspace.”
The aircraft departed from Kharkov, Ukraine for the scheduled flight south over the Black Sea to Sabiha Gokcen. The hijacker wanted to divert it east to Sochi, the Russian city on the Black Sea coast.
When the man tried unsuccessfully to get in the cockpit, the pilot emitted a hijack alert and the Turkish F-16 military jet was scrambled.
The plane was immediately stormed by Turkish anti-terrorism commandos after it landed and the man seized, reports said.
Turkish officials are yet to confirm whether explosives were found on board.
Turkish television channels showed images of the aircraft surrounded by ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles with flashing lights.
They showed a still image of the would-be hijacker, in his 30s or 40s, with short hair and wearing what looked like a red-white-and-blue ice hockey shirt with the number 11.
The head of Turkey’s main pilots’ union, Gurcan Manti, told the NTV television channel: “I received confirmation that everyone on board is okay and that the plane is fine. I know the pilot… he is experienced and I am sure everything is fine.”
The incident happened just as the opening ceremony for the $US50 billion ($A56 billion) Sochi Olympic Games – with 40 heads of state and leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending – was under way.