Hundreds of passengers on a Cathay Pacific jet were seven seconds from disaster when a Russian airliner flew in front of it, it emerged yesterday. The Airbus A340 with 260 passengers and crew on board was flying at more than 10,000 metres over the Russian province of Samara on Sunday night when one of the pilots spotted the Tupolev 154 coming from one side. Turbulence from the jet rocked the Cathay plane, which had not been warned of its approach by air traffic controllers or its cockpit alert system. The system only detects planes fitted with a similar device. The Cathay plane, en route from Zurich to Hong Kong, was travelling at nearly 800km/h. It is understood the Russian jet flew about 1.6km in front of the A340's nose at a similar speed. If it had crossed seven seconds later there would have been a direct hit. 'When we got on the ground, we drank champagne to celebrate being alive,' a crew member told the South China Morning Post. Immediately after the incident about 800km southeast of Moscow, the Cathay crew contacted Samara air traffic control to complain and were told the Tupolev had been behind the Airbus. After a series of tense exchanges, Samara controllers apologised for the near miss. A senior controller then pleaded with the Cathay crew not to file an official report, a request that was refused, sources said. As the plane continued across Russia, air traffic control made several more requests for Cathay not to report the incident to Samara authorities. It is believed an official report of the incident will be filed with the Civil Aviation Department. All Cathay planes are equipped with Traffic Alert and Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS), a tracking system which enables aircraft to detect other planes nearby with the same equipment. The system assesses any action that should be taken and alerts pilots. Major airlines fit TCAS, although it is not required by international regulations. It is believed the Tupolev did not have it. Andrew Herdman, spokesman for the Swire Group which is Cathay's major shareholder, confirmed the incident, which he said was classified as an 'airmiss'. Busy air traffic lanes meant such incidents were not unheard of although they were not common, he said. Mr Herdman said the need for constant vigilance had been stressed to all crew. 'There's always a lesson to be learned from these incidents. We've told pilots that in the days of TCAS, you can't assume that all other planes are fitted so they must be on the lookout,' he said. He denied there were any concerns about flying through Russian airspace. In the past year, 188 people have died in three crashes of the Tupolev 154 aircraft.