Night had fallen. Some 20 airplane passengers had taken their seats for the short hop from Brussels, Belgium, to Zurich, Switzerland.
Unknown to them, a precious cargo was being loaded into the airplane hold along with their suitcases: $50 million in rough and polished diamonds.
But the diamonds would never reach their final destination.
Shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, eight masked men in two vehicles burst through the perimeter fence of Brussels Airport and sped toward the aircraft on the tarmac.
The men, who authorities said wore clothing resembling police uniforms, were heavily armed.
While no shots were fired and no one was injured, the pilot, co-pilot and a transport security guard were all threatened at gunpoint, said Ine Van Wymersch, of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Brussels.
Within three minutes, the thieves had snatched the diamonds from the hold, said airport spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse.
Moments later they left the scene, racing out through the same breach in the airport periphery through which they had entered.
The robbers, four in each car, had broken a hole in the fence where it ran between two construction sites, Van Wymersch said at a news conference.
"This was a very precise, almost military-organized and well-executed robbery," Van der Cruysse said.