An anonymous aircraft spotted flying out of Lithuania was allowed to cross the airspace of several other NATO members unimpeded before landing in Bulgaria, in an illegal flight still baffling aviation officials across the continent.
Though fighter jets were scrambled to escort the fugitive plane, its crew was able to flee the scene and they remain unidentified.
After departing from a yet to be officially disclosed location in Lithuania on Wednesday, the craft traveled across Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Serbia, and Romania – all NATO states besides Belgrade – ultimately winding up at an abandoned airfield in Bulgaria, according to European officials and media reports. The plane was later found abandoned with no sign of its crew, though its engine was reportedly still warm when it was discovered.
While officials in several countries closely monitored the phantom flight, with the US, Hungarian, and Romanian air forces sending military jets to follow the plane at various points, the escorts broke off when it entered Bulgarian airspace. The small propeller craft did not have its transponder on and declined to respond to radio calls, but Bulgarian officials nonetheless decided it did not pose a threat, despite the apparent alarm triggered in some neighboring states.