Tourist Plane Sparks NATO Terror Alert

Plane and NATO symbol over map of Poland
AP / CBS
A planeload of Polish tourists got a fright when their Turkish pilot mistakenly landed at a NATO air base, sparking a terrorist alert, officials said Thursday.

The pilot of the chartered plane disregarded instructions from air traffic controllers and touched down at the Krzesiny base near Poznan late Wednesday instead of at the city's Lawica airport, about 10 miles away.

Slawomir Orlowski, a spokesman for the military airport, said the unexpected landing triggered an anti-terror procedure, with troops scrambling to surround the aircraft.

Anti-terrorist police moved in to check the crew and the passengers, he said. Three hours later, the plane was allowed to fly to the civilian airport for regular arrival procedure.

"The people were under great stress because the crew was not able to communicate to them what was going on," Orlowski said. "The pilot's English was not very good."

He said the plane flew over the lit runway at Lawica and began turning around to begin its approach "but on its way it saw the unlit runway of Krzesiny and the pilot sat the plane down there."

Control towers at both airports were telling the pilot she had chosen the wrong airport, but she was flying low and went ahead with the landing, Orlowski said.

Warsaw airport spokesman Artur Burak also said the pilot of the plane, which had taken off from Antalya in Turkey, was at fault.

"The air traffic controller informed the pilot that she was making a mistake and that she should change her flight (route), but she didn't and she landed at the other airport," Burak said. "It was the pilot's mistake."