F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Greek F-16s intercept Helios Airways B737

August 14, 2005 (by Bjorn Claes) - Two Greek F-16s where scrambled from their base on Sunday, August 14th around 11.30h local to intercept a Helios Airways B737 in Greek airspace.

Helios Airways flight 522 was on its route from Larnaca (Cyprus) to Athens (Greece). Because they failed to contact the Athens Area Control Centre, the Greek F-16s were scrambled to intercept it.

As the F-16s approached, the pilots saw no sign of life in the cockpit, and the plane seemed to be on autopilot. One of the F-16 pilots reported he could not see the captain in the cockpit and that the co-pilot appeared to be slumped in his seat.

The F-16s escorted the aircraft until it struck a mountain region near Varnava, which lies near the historic town of Marathon, about 50 km north of Athens. The first reports indicate there where no survivors due to the high speed of the aircraft upon impact. 115 passengers and 6 crew-members where on board the flight.

Greek officials said they suspect malfunctions in the oxygen supply or pressurization system could have caused the crash.