Iran orders NATO plane to land over flight plan error

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Saturday, September 6, 2014

A NATO charter plane carrying 100 people including US government contractors out of Afghanistan was ordered to land in southern Iran because of errors in its flight plan, a Tehran-based official said Saturday.

The rare incident prompted a flurry of reaction in the United States since a number of Americans were on board the plane, but the problem was solved and the aircraft headed on to Dubai, its original destination, after a few hours on the ground.

"We realized that the flight information was incorrect and to be sure there was no problem, we asked to pilot to land," said Mohammad Ali Ilkhani, head of the Iranian Airports Organization.

Flight FZ 4359, operated by Fly Dubai, landed at an airport in Bandar Abbas, a port city on the Gulf. The plane had earlier left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, US officials said on Friday.

The State Department quickly refuted US media reports that Iran had scrambled fighter jets and forced the charter plane to land.

Ilkhani said the plane was asked to land because it was in Iranian airspace and there was a problem with its route information, and that airport officials had not been aware that Americans were on board.

"We interviewed the pilot and verified his flight documents. The pilot acknowledged there had been errors. He was then allowed to leave," Ilkhani said.

After several hours on the ground, the plane was back in the air, deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said separately.

It was not immediately clear who was on board the Fly Dubai plane, but defense officials confirmed it had been chartered by the US-led NATO International Security Assistance Force.

It was not disclosed if it was carrying any US troops flying from the sprawling Bagram military air base just outside the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Officials confirmed however that there were American citizens as well as other US government contractors of different nationalities on board.

(AFP)

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