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Russia denies plane was close enough to be a risk

Updated söndag 14 december 2014 kl 15.16
Published söndag 14 december 2014 kl 11.36
Rysslands försvarsdepartement
The Russian Defense Ministry rejects Peter Hultqvist's statement. Photo: Harry Popoff (http://bit.ly/1GmG3b0) /Claudio Bresciani/TT. Montage: SR

The Russian Defense Ministry said there was no risk that its military plane could have collided with a passenger plane flying south of Malmö on Friday, but the Swedish Air Force say the plane came far too close.

Newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported that the passenger plane was likely SAS flight SK1755 heading from Copenhagen towards Poznan, in western Poland, which got directions to change course at the last minute to avoid colliding into a Russian military plane, which was flying with its transponder off. (SAS denies the passenger plane was theirs, but the newspaper reports that a source within the Armed Forces says otherwise.)

Sweden's Defense Minister, Peter Hultqvist, confirmed for media yesterday that the military plane was Russian, and that by flying with its transponder off, it had created a serious risk.

However, Russia's Defense Ministry denied that was true, according to the tabloid Expressen today, which cited Russian Major General Igor Konashenkov telling the Itar-Tass news bureau that the Russian fighter plane was more than 70 km away from the route of the passenger plane.

But, the chief of the Swedish Air Force Micael Bydén told Swedish Radio News that while he could not give an exact figure, the plane had come well within the 9 km minimum distance that should have separated the two planes. 

This is not the first time something like this has occurred - in March, there was a similar incident when a passenger plane came 90 meters away from crashing into a Russian military plane in mid-air, also with its transponder off.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Civil Aviation Administration told Swedish Radio News it wants better radar, which would let them detect planes flying without transponders. In the case of Friday, it was Sweden's military air traffic control that detected the "invisible" plane, and then notified the civil air traffic control. 

There is worry about the risks that "invisible" flying poses, but Per Fröberg, the spokesperson for the civil aviation administration, clarified that international rules do allow flying in international air space without transponders. The Swedish Transport Administration told news agency TT that it was unfortunate that this was happening in crowded air space. 

Flight safety analyst Hans Kjäll sees the incident Friday as part of a pattern where planes are systematically flying in controlled air space without their transponders. He believes the Russian plane could see a radar image of the civil planes in the sky, and speculated that it may have flown close to the passenger plane either to provoke or to train. 

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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