An Aeroflot Boeing 737-800 on its way to Moscow from the Siberian city of Surgut landed safety Tuesday at an alternate airport in Khanty-Mansiysk after a passenger claiming to be armed ordered the airplane’s pilots to divert to Afghanistan. The crew told the attacker that the airplane needed to land for refueling before it could proceed to Afghanistan. Rather, once in Khanty-Mansiysk, ground crews towed the narrowbody to a remote area of the airfield, where anti-terrorism forces arrested the would-be hijacker. The man--41-year-old Pavel Shapovalov--has served several prison terms, but never for weapons convictions.
In a statement, Aeroflot said all of the passengers and crewmembers on board the aircraft disembarked safely and without injury.
Aeroflot has dispatched a reserve aircraft to Khanty-Mansiysk to allow the 60 passengers on the disrupted flight to continue their journey to Moscow.
“In response to the growing threat of international terrorism in recent years all Aeroflot employees undergo thorough training on responding to such incidents in order to ensure the safety of passengers,” said Aeroflot, while failing to elaborate on the nature of any response by others aboard the aircraft.
Meanwhile, Aeroflot has placed its security service and technical services on a state of high alert, and crews have begun carrying out extra security checks on all aircraft before takeoff. The airline asked for “understanding” from its passengers for the need for “enhanced” pre-boarding procedures.
It added that the incident affected no other Aeroflot flights. The airplane--registered as VP-BRR--remains in Khanty-Mansiysk for police procedures and analysis.