A British Comet jet airliner left London at 4 a.m. today (Monday) to fly to?
A British Comet jet airliner left London at 4 a.m. today (Monday) to fly to Gibraltar with a full load of passengers despite the new Spanish ban on overflying nearby Algeciras Bay which came into force three hours earlier. The Comet, of British European Airways, landed safely on Gibraltar airstrip.
The ban of flying over a large zone of the bay, next to Gibraltar, came into effect at midnight. Today's flight by the Comet could prove to be the first test of the Spanish ban.
Four British Air Force Hawker Hunter jet fighter aircraft arrived in Gibraltar last week and have been exercising daily. It was expected that they would escort the first British civil aircraft into the colony, but a Defence Ministry spokesman said in London today that there had been no escort for the Comet.
Spain had issued a last-minute warning that any airliner violating the prohibited zone was taking a safety risk. The area might be used for military manoeuvres which, by their nature, represent a danger to air navigation, a Spanish Foreign Ministry note said.
Britain does not recognise Spain's ban, which was announced a month ago and discussed inconclusively last week by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
British officials say Britain is determined to uphold its right to use Gibraltar Airport for military and civil aircraft, and in considering a move that could allow the issue to be taken to the World Court at the Hague.