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‘Mar de Alas’: The day a Spanish Navy Jet Landed in Gibraltar in 1993

Soraya Fernández

Antonio Ruibérriz de Torres, ex Spanish Navy pilot and author of Mar de Alas, made an emergency landing on the Rock’s runway in 1993. What he initially claimed to be an emergency landing, turned out to be “a laugh”

Literature is an inexhaustible source of information, but it also uncovers real stories that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, which are then immortalized through the wonderful world of books…

A good example of this is the, until recently, untold story of Sevillia-born Antonio Ruibérriz de Torres, ex-pilot in the Spanish Navy, who is the author of “Mar de Alas” (Wings over the Sea), published by JM Ediciones in 2017.

Antonio Ruibérriz - Mar de Alas

In his book, Antonio explains how he made an emergency landing in Gibraltar on February 8, 1993. He was piloting one of two “Harrier AV-8A” jets which were returning from a low altitude flight over the island of Alborán, south of Málaga.

After completing the route, as the author himself wrote on, they reached a higher altitude and established contact with the control tower in Seville. Then, “on a straight course to Rota and with Gibraltar right under our noses, the low-fuel warning lights came on. I followed standard procedure, but the two lights remained on. In theory, that meant that the two central tank valves had closed, and I had about two minutes of engine running time.”

At that moment, he declared a state of emergency and, according to his account, Control-Sevilla gave him the go-ahead to approach Málaga. “I started to turn towards Málaga and change into that frequency, but I couldn’t see the landing field. Meanwhile, the Gibraltar runway was less than 10 kilometres away at 12 o’clock.”

Mar de Alas
Mar de Alas

According to this account, the pilot communicated that he would be making an emergency landing in Gibraltar, and they had no problem whatsoever landing on the airfield runway.

However, what he claimed to be an emergency turned out to be an “aeronautical joke that I would not do now, at my age”. Antonio himself admitted to Reach-Alcance: “I was younger and had to do it for a series of reasons. The morale of the crew was very low. I did it to lift the spirits and, also, because I had said a long time ago that I would ‘take over Gibraltar’ before leaving. It wasn’t the fuel. It was a laugh.”

Antonio Ruibérriz de Torres

Ruibérriz de Torre remembers that shortly after the event, the British Royal Navy then landed – “by mistake, they said” – on a beach in La Línea. “There are many malicious people who link the two episodes.

How could it be a mistake, they say, if the Rock is the Rock, and they ended up on a beach”, he adds.

However, the author points out that Gibraltar treated him very cordially and that, later, the Royal Air Force even sent him a photograph of himself and his companion with the Rock in the background.

“Even the cleaners took a picture with me. It was a moment of pure joy”, he says.

What do you think?