A taxiing plane was stopped at Heathrow Airport seconds before take-off after police ordered it to remain grounded so they could prevent a suspected child abduction.
Officers removed a four-year-old girl from the flight to Romania after her mother reported that her daughter had been taken from her a day earlier.
A 32-year-old man – who is known to the child– was taken off the plane and arrested.
Detective Sergeant Ruth Walker, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “When the report came in it was a race against the clock to find them.”
Officers used intelligence and number plate recognition cameras to track the suspect’s car from Nottinghamshire to the London airport following the mother’s call at 4.57pm on Thursday.
They then used border checks to identify the suspect was booked on a flight to Bucharest due to leave at 6pm on Friday.
Det Sgt Walker added: “The plane was taxiing ready for take-off, but we were able to get there just in time before it took flight. The plane then returned to the terminal and the man was arrested.
“This was a hugely complex and challenging case, with its obvious pressures.”
The man was questioned by detectives on Friday and has been released on police bail, with conditions, pending further enquiries.
The child has been returned to her mother.