19th August 1958
Jersey plane makes bomb threat detour
Thirty passengers on their way to Jersey strapped themselves in as their aircraft performed an about turn in mid-air and returned to Manchester airport after an anonymous caller had phoned in a bomb warning. As reported in several newspapers, the muffled voice had said merely “there is a bomb on an airliner” before ringing off. It hadn’t said which airliner.
Theirs was one of several that were ordered to return to their points of origin, but far from the worst off at the end of the event: a plane that had flown out from Birmingham, which was considered the most likely target, was isolated in a remote part of London Airport and partly taken to pieces in the search for an explosive device. None was found.
Fortunately, the disruption to passengers was kept to a minimum and most planes were back in the air after 50 minutes as the threat turned out to be a hoax. As airport officials said at the time, such hoaxes were becoming more common.
The following week, a Jersey-bound flight from Elmdon Aerodrome, now Birmingham Airport, was delayed for half an hour and subjected to more stringent searches following another hoax message that “there is a bomb in an aircraft”. On that occasion, only 21 passengers were involved and, as the British European Airways plane was the only one at the airport, it was easy for authorities to identify the target.
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