Austrian Wings readers know the history. On September 10th, based on information from the Defense Ministry, our message initially reads: “A Hungarian NATO C-17 with a valid overflight permit” massively “violated Austrian airspace today. According to Michael Bauer, Defense Ministry spokesman, the machine is over the Attersee has sunk to an altitude of 1,000 meters without a permit, endangering other air traffic. ” According to the Ministry of Defense, the aircraft behaved “like a wrong-way driver on the motorway” and there has not been such a “serious airspace violation” “in the past 20 years”.
However, these claims seem to stand up to less and less objective scrutiny. The Armed Forces said that the C-17 had the prescribed flight altitude without a permit while it was in motion “, reports including photo and film recordings have been spinning (and spinning) into the Austrian Wings editorial office for a week, which prove that the C-17 is over a very long period of time and was already flying low over Lower Austria. Intensive discussions on the subject are also ongoing on social media and in various WhatsApp groups. Accordingly, the C-17 was probably flying low over Austria for at least 30, but possibly up to 60 minutes – and without the armed forces intervening in any way in the form of an interception operation, Wings editorial team, the question rightly arises, how that can be The big question, however, would be why an airspace violation was alleged when there was none.
Inquiries to the armed forces
For several days, Austrian Wings asked the Army for a statement in several e-mails and inquiries via the contact form on the Bundesheer homepage and provided (therefore the e-mail request) download links to photo material as well as FR24 screenshots. We did not receive an answer. In a phone call on Friday afternoon, Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Michael Bauer said that the e-mail replies to our editorial team were “repeatedly undeliverable”. Since during the whole time there was a lot of mail traffic with other places and the mail servers seem to be working properly, this claim is currently being checked by our IT department. Austrian Wings asked the Ministry of Defense to send the error messages to an e-mail address outside of the Austrian Wings server.
Explanation by Austro Control
At the same time, Austrian Wings sent Austro Control an extensive questionnaire, which includes the following points:
– What regular flight plan did the Hungarian NATO C-17 have, specifically at what altitude was it approved for the overflight over Austria?
– According to the recordings of Austro Control, what altitude was it when it entered Austrian airspace and at what time was it UTC?
– at what time UTC (how long after entering the Austrian airspace) did Austro Control notice that the aircraft had left its assigned altitude?
– What measures were taken by Austro Control?
– at what time UTC (or how many minutes after the C-17 left the assigned altitude) was the military informed by Austro Control?
It is true that such specific information could not or would not be given to Austro Control either, but Austro Control made the following statement:
“According to the information available to Austro Control, this aircraft flew in visual flight in airspace that is not subject to approval at approx. 3,000 ft with a flight plan to Austria and was en route in Austria at this altitude.”
In other words: Contrary to what was initially publicly rumored by the armed forces, Austro Control is not aware of a descent of the C-17 without a permit. According to the flight plan, the machine had already crossed the Austrian border at an altitude of around 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) and then remained at this altitude.
Federal Army revises original statements
In the aforementioned telephone statement, the Federal Army corrected the essential information originally given about the incident. Accordingly, there was no longer any talk of an unauthorized descent. The flight was approved and a flight plan for a flight under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) had been submitted. According to Bauer, however, this is unusual with such a large aircraft. Subsequently, however, the pilot clearly exceeded the maximum permissible speed for a visual flight at this altitude (250 knots, editor’s note). The armed forces initially failed to contact the crew of the C-17 by radio. Therefore one had to contact the home base of the machine in Hungary. When the machine was finally reached by radio, the pilots were instructed to climb to an altitude of 5,000 feet. “The crew on the radio refused,” Army spokesman Bauer told Austrian Wings. In addition, the machine carried out a “prohibited flight maneuver” in which it opened the tailgate during the flight. According to Bauer, this maneuver is reserved for army machines in Austria. In the end, two Eurofighters were alerted to intercept the C-17 and guide it out of Austrian airspace.