The Gibraltar Government accused Spain of “completely unacceptable” interference after a Spanish military aircraft strayed inside Gibraltar air space yesterday, delaying a passenger jet on the runway.
The Spanish military P3 Orion [shown above in a library image] flew to within two miles of the east side of the Rock.
The Spanish aircraft was being controlled by military controllers within the Seville ACC control centre, which relayed traffic information regarding the intentions of the aircraft to Gibraltar Air Traffic Control.
But according to the government, the Spanish plane did not follow its expected flight profile and initiated a small climb while outside of British airspace.
As a consequence, Gibraltar ATC designated the aircraft as unknown traffic, which requires that the aircraft is separated from other traffic by either 5,000ft or five nautical miles.
A British Airways aircraft scheduled to depart from Gibraltar at 11:50am was therefore delayed and held for eight minutes on the runway until Gibraltar ATC were certain that the Spanish plane had left the area, assuring the required separation during the departure of the BA aircraft, which departed for London Heathrow at 12:15pm.
“It is no secret that Spain has been deliberately causing problems for Gibraltar at our border and through its incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters,” Mr Picardo said.
“Today’s incursion into Gibraltar’s airspace, in the middle of a busy day when several civilian flights were scheduled to arrive and depart from the Gibraltar International Airport, takes the Spanish harassment of Gibraltar to new heights.”
“It is completely unacceptable that the Spanish military have interfered with the movement of civilian aircraft in this dangerous manner.”
“Gibraltar International Airport is an extremely busy base for civilian passengers who are significant contributors to the tourism economy of the campo area.”
“Delays caused by the politically-motivated manoeuvres of the Spanish military are intolerable but thanks to the swift action of Gibraltar’s Air Traffic Control, delays were the only consequence. Today’s incident could have ended much worse.”
A spokesman for The Convent confirmed that the British Government was aware of the incursion and would file a diplomatic protest, as it does with every such incident.
Photo by David Parody