Air Traffic Control at Anglesey (HLY) were first to notice the deviation of Flight CWG 003 on radar, inbound from Vancouver International (YVR) to Manchester Airport (MAN).
Air Traffic Controllers at the small Anglesey airport were desperately trying to establish radio contact with the plane.
The aircraft transponder remained on and altitude remained unchanged but no communication was received.
Controllers knew they had a serious situation on their hands and with 9/11 only being a year ago, and fresh in their minds, they initiated the UK's new aviation regulations.
Radar stations At Boulmer and Scampton in Lincolnshire on receiving the alerts pass these onto the RAFs National Air & Space Operations Centre in High Wycombe (the UKs equivalent to NORAD). RAF Quick Reaction Alert Bases (RAF Leuchars in Fife and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire as well as Cornwall) are then mobilised.
But in this case the plane was confirmed to be a special designation Charter with very important foreign dignitaries aboard. And that altered the Alert response chain
Meanwhile ATC confirmed the new flight path lined the aircraft up with the Wylfa Nuclear Power Plant and other major UK cities in the South-East including London
In such rare circumstances involving foreign VIPs the only UK Quick Reaction Alert base permissible for use was NATO's Evie Air Base
Evie ATC took the call. The Intercept scramble alarm was sounded.
The base always had a minimum of two jets primed for this eventuality and they trained for it regularly
Fortunately and on this occasion they had two U.S. Air Force (NATO) General Dynamic (now Lockheed Martin) F-16s in the main hanger
The F-16 pilots wasted no time
The first was the F-16C variant, U.S.A.F. 23rd Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Fighter Wing Operations Group
Close behind was the F-16D variant, U.S.A.F. 510th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Fighter Wing Operations Group
[Editor's Note: As you can see the old Telecoms Headquarters Building once stood on the grounds beside the base back in 2002 before it was pulled down for the new Hangar we have today ]
Both jets were immediately cleared for the runway
The Pilots knew if the order came they may have to shoot down a civilian aircraft.
But this was what they trained for. This was the job.
One and Two cleared for Take-off
Both jets are airborne 6 minutes from Base Alert
Meanwhile on the TV's mid morning News
Reports are still coming in and are sketchy but we can now confirm the commercial plane reported to deviate from its scheduled flight path is Flight CWG 003 a Privately owned Commemorative Charter plane commissioned by Her Majesty the Queen to herald in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. The plane we believe was coming in from Vancouver International with high level representatives of the Commonwealth Games Family Members and some Athletes. We also believe, but this is currently unconfirmed, that the Canadian Deputy Prime Minister together with the Prime Minister of New Zealand who was in Canada on a State visit and en route to the UK for the Games are also aboard. We are trying to confirm these reports as this news is breaking...please stay tuned.
Inbound over UK territorial waters, a 707 bearing the 2002 Commonwealth Games logo continued
The Game's Mascot clearly emblazoned on its tail
Still no radio contact...No communications...Nothing...