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    Mystery plane puts east Europe air forces on alert

    SOFIA (AFP) – A two-seater plane whizzed through half a dozen eastern European countries without permission, alerting air forces, before being abandoned in Bulgaria by a mysterious crew, the Defence Ministry in Sofia said on Thursday.

    The aircraft flew over Hungary, crossed briefly into Serbia and then Romania before entering Bulgarian airspace at 7.09pm local time on Wednesday, the Bulgarian Defence Ministry said in a statement.

    The twin-engine Beechcraft with two people onboard had no approved flight plan and its transponders were turned off. The pilot did not respond to radio requests and visual signals, the Romanian Defence Ministry said.

    Two Hungarian Gripen fighter jets, two US F-16s and two Romanian F-16s intercepted the intruder one after the other and escorted it until it entered Bulgarian airspace, Bucharest added.

    Bulgaria’s air force did not immediately send up fighters as “the plane was not considered a threat at any moment”, Defence Minister Dragomir Zakov told journalists.

    His ministry said flying conditions had been difficult amid a thunderstorm and heavy rain.

    The plane had stopped to refuel in the Danube town of Vidin, in northwestern Bulgaria, and the Interior Ministry later found it abandoned in an old airfield near Targovishte, in the nation’s northeast.

    The aircraft flew over Hungary, crossed briefly into Serbia and then Romania before entering Bulgarian airspace at 7.09pm. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES
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