British prime minister's plane overshoots Miami runway

Iran Materials 27 December 2006 12:19 (UTC +04:00)

(AP) - A commercial jet carrying British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family slightly overshot a runway at the Miami International Airport on Tuesday, but the plane was not damaged and no injuries were reported, officials said.

British Airways flight 209 from London ran over a couple airfield lights after landing around 6:15 p.m., but did not leave the pavement and returned to the gate under its own power, airport spokesman Marc Henderson said.

The plane stopped just past the official end of the runway, said Laura Brown, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman, reports Trend.

"It landed safely on the runway. It slowed down. It was going at taxiway speed and they just missed a turn," Brown said.

Brown said the FAA would be looking into the incident, but she did not know whether there would be a formal investigation.

The Blairs, among the 343 passengers on the plane, were in Miami for a family vacation and planned to stay with Robin Gibb of the Bee-Gees, officials said.

According to the National Weather Service, thick clouds covered South Florida about the time Blair's plane was landing, and a light rain had fallen at the airport about two hours earlier.

"Nothing the pilots don't handle all the time," meteorologist Brad Diehl said. "The visibility was about 10 miles."

The pilot stopped the plane at the end of the runway because he could not see the lights to the taxiway, British Airways spokesman John Lampl said.

"Apparently, they're doing some resurfacing work and relighting, so the lighting was poor. Just to err on the side of caution, the captain decided to stop at the end of the runway and called the tower," Lampl said.

The plane was then pushed into position to return to the gate under its own power, and was on schedule for its return flight to London with a new crew Tuesday night, he said.

The taxiway lighting met FAA standards, the agency's spokeswoman said.

A Downing Street official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk about Blair's travel plans, said the prime minister and his family were not hurt in the mishap.

John Campbell, Gibb's co-manager, said the Blairs were staying at the musician's house in Miami.

"It's a private holiday and it's a private arrangement," Campbell said. "They are friends."

Steve Atkins, the deputy press secretary for the British Embassy in Washington, said it was not uncommon for Blair to travel by commercial airliner, but declined to comment further.

"We don't comment on the prime minister's private travel arrangements," Atkins said. "We don't comment on security arrangements."

Blair receives U.S. Secret Service protection whenever he lands in the U.S., agency spokeswoman Kim Bruce said.

Passengers on board the plane told WSVN-TV in Miami that police and rescue vehicles quickly surrounded the aircraft.

"We just thought there must have been someone on board who shouldn't have been on board," Karen Queen of London said.

"The captain just said there was a problem with the aircraft and they were checking it out and making sure it was OK to move," said Gary Cooper, also from London.