MANCHESTER Airport was at the centre of a 999 emergency exercise as police put their skills to the test to deal with the most terrifying of incidents ­— the hijacking of a plane.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police and Counter Terrorism Policing North West took part in a pre-planned routine exercise at the airport.

The exercise ­— code named Exercise Tornado ­— saw a plane land at Manchester Airport after being ‘hijacked’ mid-flight.

The simulation began from the moment the distress signal was received from the aircraft to test the emergency response.

Emergency services and specialist negotiators quickly responded and engaged with those on board to ensure the safe release of the passengers.

The scenario ran into the early hours of Saturday morning and the airport continued to operate as usual throughout the duration of the exercise.

Superintendent Graeme Openshaw, Head of GMP’s Manchester Airport Policing team, said: “Exercise Tornado ran successfully from the late hours of Friday into the early hours of Saturday and involved several agencies working in partnership to ensure we’re as prepared as possible should an unlikely scenario like this unfold.

“I’d like to thank all of our partners ­— from colleagues at Manchester Airport and fellow emergency services to the willing volunteers that posed as the passengers ­— everyone came together and dedicated a lot of time and effort to ensure the exercise was as realistic and effective as possible.

“The UK threat level from terrorism was reduced from severe to substantial earlier this month and whilst substantial means an attack is likely, there is nothing to suggest an immediate threat in Greater Manchester.

“That being said, it’s important that we’re always prepared and we will continue to train and learn from exercises like these to ensure that we’re equipped to respond and protect the people of Greater Manchester.”