Britain's newest international airport was at the centre of a major security review after a gang of five youths allegedly broke into a jumbo jet, it emerged y esterday.
It was claimed they got as far as the cockpit of the Boeing 747, w hich had been refuelled, before security staff detained them.
Police were called and five suspects were arrested. They were released on bail without charge while inquiries were made into alleged theft, criminal damage and aviation offences.
The youths are believed to have had access to a car parked nearby, which was packed with powerful fireworks. It was not known whether they planned to use them to damage the plane.
It is understood that a security review was ordered immediately after the incident last week at privately-owned Kent International Airport, at Manston, which opened earlier this year.
Airport authorities stressed that the intruders were quickly detected.
A spokesman said: "The incident occurred outside the airport's secure perimeter, in an area where aircraft are occasionally parked. These aircraft are monitored by CCTV cameras."
An aviation security expert commented: "This is an extremely worrying incident. It raises major questions about security outside the main perimeter."
Detective Inspector Nick Greenan said: "Five young people from the Deal area were detained by security staff, having boarded an empty aircraft.
"This appears to be an isolated incident. There is no link to terrorism or to acts specifically intended to endanger the lives of passengers."