Source Pravda.Ru

Tony Blair's jet overshoots runway at Miami Airport

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 Heathrow Airport in London ran over a couple airfield lights after landing around 6:15 p.m. (2315 GMT), but did not leave the pavement and returned to the gate under its own power, airport spokesman Marc Henderson said. No injuries were reported.

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

Blair was among the 343 passengers on the plane, U.S. Secret Service spokeswoman Kim Bruce said.

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

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, the AP said.

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

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 call 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, Brown said.

"It landed safely on the runway. It slowed down. It was going at taxiway speed and they just missed a turn," Brown said. "It's like if you miss a turn in your car."

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

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."

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.

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

The prime minister was traveling to Miami to stay with Robin Gibb of the Bee-Gees, Gibb's co-manager John Campbell said.

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

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