Close encounter with Air FranceTwo passenger jets nearly collided over Belgrade on Monday, Serbian air traffic authorities said yesterday. The Directorate for Civil Aviation said an Air France Airbus A318 and an Israeli El-Al Boeing B777 came within 213 meters of each before the French airliner stopped descending under orders from Serbian air controllers. The statement said an investigation has shown that the French jet was on an unauthorized flight course. It said the airliner was instructed to fly at 35.000 feet but was 300 feet further down toward the Israeli jet, which was flying at 34.000 feet.
Asked for its comment on Wednesday, Air France only said that "the pilots reacted to a proximity alert", applying the necessary procedures, and "the flight continued normally." A press official refused to answer questions, including the number of passengers the Airbus was carrying on its flight from Paris to Sofia, Bulgaria. In Israel, an El-Al spokesman Ran Rahav confirmed that Flight 007 from Tel Aviv to New York, carrying 120 passengers, lowered its altitude over Belgrade to avoid an Air France aircraft, which, he said, had been given mistaken instructions by an air traffic controller. "At no time was there a danger to the passengers, the crew or the plane", Rahav said in a statement.
After a swift investigation The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate confirmed that the Air France pilot was at fault. It has been a week of drama in the Serbian skies as 3 emergency landings took place at Belgrade. Two Turkish charter airlines had to make an emergency landing at the Serbian capital after the first reported pressurization problems and the second had an ill passenger on board who was proclaimed dead upon landing. Furthermore an Air Berlin jet also made an emergency landing after one of its passengers was reported ill.