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Posts Tagged ‘flight’

Solar-powered plane set for pioneering night flight

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

The prototype of a pioneering Swiss bid to fly around the world on solar energy aims to take to the skies on Thursday in the first attempt at a night flight fuelled by the sun, the team said.

The high-tech single-seater Solar Impulse aircraft, with the 63.40-metre (208-foot) wingspan of a large Airbus A340 airliner, plans to take advantage of clear summer weather to take off from Payerne airbase in western Switzerland, it said.

“The situation continues to look good and the likelihood of seeing the HB-SIA take off on July 1st and land back in the early morning July 2nd is increasingly probable,” it said in a statement Tuesday.

The Solar Impulse aircraft, a pioneering Swiss bid to fly around the world on solar energy takes off in April 2010 from Payerne’s air base, western Switzerland

Team members have said they need a 25-hour window of clear and calm summer weather to attempt the pioneering round-the-clock flight above Switzerland and eastern France.

Pilot Andre Borschberg plans to keep the aircraft at altitudes of up to 8,500 metres, storing some of the energy from solar panels in batteries during the daylight to fly through the night before landing after dawn on Friday.

Despite its huge wingspan, the aircraft only weighs about as much as a family-sized car, about 1,600 kilogrammes (3,500 pounds).

“We’re not sure to make it at the first try, let’s be clear about this,” said Solar Impulse president and founder Bertrand Piccard, the round-the-world balloonist.

The solar venture has grown in recent months, joined by former space shuttle astronaut Claude Nicollier and retired NASA chief test pilot Rogers Smith.

The prototype made its 10th test flight under solar energy on Tuesday. It first hopped off a runway shortly after it was unveiled seven months ago.

Powered by four 10 horsepower electric motors — each about as strong as the engine that took the Wright Brothers into the air more than 100 years ago — Solar Impulse’s take-off speed is just 35 kilometres per hour (22mph), with a cruising speed barely twice as fast.

The prototype is slightly smaller than the craft that is planned to fly around the world in 2013 to 2014.

Source: SGGP

Solar plane’s night flight delayed by technical problem

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

PAYERNE, Switzerland, July 1, 2010 (AFP) – A pioneering attempt to fly an experimental aircraft, Solar Impulse, though the night powered by nothing but the sun has been postponed due to a technical issue, organisers said Thursday.

“A failure occurred in a critical piece in the plane,” Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, the venture’s founder and previously the first balloonist to circumnavigate the globe, told a press conference.

View taken on July 1, 2010 of an aircraft dubbed Solar Impulse, HB-SIA prototype in a warehouse in Payerne. AFP

His spokesman told AFP that he was referring to an item of navigational equipment which broke down on Wednesday night.

The ultra-light aircraft, flown by joint founder Andre Borschberg, had been set to take off from the Payerne airbase in Switzerland early Thursday and then fly for 24 hours through the day and the night.

The single seater clad with solar panels, which weighs little more than a saloon car but bears the wingspan of an Airbus A340 airliner, has completed 10 test flights since it first hopped along a runway seven months ago.

Source: SGGP

New volcano ash flight rules bring hope for airlines

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

LONDON (AFP) – British aviation regulators bring in measures Tuesday to reduce the airspace closures fiercely criticised by airlines, as European skies were hit by new shutdowns caused by volcano ash clouds.

A view showing heavy clouds over dwellings set near the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland. AFP photo

Plumes of thick ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano, which in April shut down much of Europe’s airspace for a week last month, drifted over the continent Monday, closing major airports and cancelling some 1,000 flights.

Britain, the Netherlands and Ireland closed airspace, with London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest air hub, and Amsterdam-Schiphol among those affected.

Airlines, which have lost millions of dollars due to the ash alerts, have expressed their fury with what they viewed as unnecessary restrictions introduced by overcautious safety watchdogs.

In a bid to keep the skies open for business, British aviation regulators introduce new measures from midday Tuesday that will to allow flights in thicker ash than previously permitted for a certain amount of time.

The new area — called a “Time-Limited Zone” — was created after discussions between regulators and manufacturers, said regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Experts believe high concentrations of volcanic dust can damage plane engines and even cause crashes.

But a CAA statement said: “Aircraft and engine manufacturers… have agreed that it is safe to allow operations in the new zone for a limited time.

“This means that areas of our airspace that would have previously been closed can safely open, further minimising disruption.”

To operate in the new zone, airlines must present regulators with a safety case which includes the agreement of the manufacturers, said the CAA.

This had already been achieved by British airline Flybe, which will be allowed in the zones from midday.

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh led the attack on Monday’s flight restrictions, labelling them “a gross over-reaction to a very minor risk.”

His criticism was echoed by KLM after the disruption to Dutch airspace.

“The closure was unnecessary. The flight control service should have first measured the concentration of ash and then took a decision,” said KLM spokeswoman Joyce Veekman.

Irish airline Ryanair attacked the computer-generated projections used by safety authorities to work out the no-fly zones, saying they were insufficiently detailed.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “It is frankly ridiculous that the flight plans of millions of air passengers across Europe are being disrupted on a daily basis by an outdated, inappropriate and imaginary computer-generated model and it is time that these charts were done away with.”

The international airline industry body, IATA, has estimated last month’s shutdown — Europe’s biggest since World War II — cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.4 billion euros).

Eurocontrol, the intergovernmental agency coordinating air traffic control, said around 1,000 flights in Europe were cancelled by Monday’s ash alert.

In the Netherlands, some 500 flights into and out of Amsterdam-Schiphol were axed after it was shut for seven hours until re-opening at 1100 GMT. Some 60,000 passengers were left stranded around the world by the closure.

London Heathrow and London Gatwick were also hit by a new round of delays and cancellations following a six-hour shutdown early Monday.

In Ireland, Dublin airport reopened at midday (1100 GMT) after a 17-hour shutdown as the cloud moved east. Almost 300 flights were cancelled, disrupting 36,000 passengers, The Irish Times newspaper said.

In Iceland, there was no sign of the volcano stopping.

The Eyjafjoell eruptions, which began on April 14, have peaked three times, with the latest surge of activity coming Friday.

“There is really no way of telling when it will stop… magma is still emerging,” Icelandic geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson said.

Source: SGGP

Europe faces fresh flight disruptions from ash cloud

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

LISBON, May 10, 2010 (AFP) – The return of a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland was expected to force the cancellation of hundreds of flights Monday but airports reopened in Portugal on the eve of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

About 500 fewer flights would take to the skies in Europe on Monday because of the ash cloud, which would also force transatlantic planes to fly lengthy detours, European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said in a statement.

A plane takes off from Vienna Airport on May 10, 2010 in Schwechat some 25 kilometer east from Vienna. AFP photo

Lisbon airport, where Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive on Tuesday for the start of a four-day visit, reopened Monday at 9:00 am, four hours ahead of schedule because the ash cloud had moved away “more quickly than expected”, civil aviation authority NAV spokeswoman Sofia Azevedo told AFP.

The airport in the northern city of Oporto also reopened as did all seven airports in neighbouring Spain, including at Bilbao and Santander, which were closed on Sunday because of the risk posed to engines by the ash.

But Eurocontrol warned that during Monday afternoon “areas of higher ash concentration could move in a north-easterly direction from the Atlantic into the Iberian Peninsula”, leading to fresh flight disruption in Spain and Portugal.

Elsewhere airports reopened in Austria, England, Germany, Ireland and Scotland, except for the airport at Barra island in the west.

But transatlantic flights were suffering delays, especially those departing from London’s Gatwick airport.

A Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando in Florida that should have departed at 11:15 am was delayed until 4:15 pm while another flight to Las Vegas was pushed back to 5:45 pm from 11:25 am.

Flights to Canada and the Caribbean were also suffering delays.

No airports were closed in Bulgaria on Monday but officials in the country said there was a risk that the ash would affect its skies later on Monday.

The eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano on April caused travel chaos worldwide, with airspace closed over several European nations for a week last month because of fears the ash would damage aircraft engines with fatal results.

It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected.

Recent images have shown activity in the volcano intensifying.

Experts at Britain’s Met Office said Sunday it was sending ash up to heights of 30,000 feet (9,100 metres). 

Source: SGGP

British flight ban ends, London’s Heathrow reopens

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 8:40 am

LONDON, April 21, 2010 (AFP) – British air travellers were spared a further day of travel misery Wednesday as aviation authorities ended a five-day airspace shutdown caused by an Icelandic volcano ash cloud.

A British Airways flight arrived at London’s Heathrow airport shortly before 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) Tuesday from Vancouver, the first to touch down at Europe’s busiest air hub since authorities closed down the country’s airspace last week.

First passengers react as they arrive with first flight from Vancouver at London’s Heathrow airport, as it was reopened on April 20, 2010 after a five-day airspace shutdown. AFP photo

“It’s good to be back,” said Neil Rodgers, the first passenger through the doors at the airport’s Terminal Five.

“As we were coming into land I was quite concerned as we were coming through the cloud,” he added.

The reopening of Heathrow came after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that restrictions on airspace in Britain would gradually be eased from 2100 GMT.

Transport Minister Andrew Adonis said all British airports could reopen and he expected them to remain open.

“The CAA has now established a wider area in which it is safe to fly, consistent with the framework agreed (Monday) by the EU transport ministers,” he said.

The decision to lift the ban came as tensions mounted between airlines and the authorities, with BA showing its anger by sending flights to land at Heathrow despite restrictions still being in place.

Other countries hit by the ash cloud shutdown — including Belgium, France and Germany — had already eased restrictions earlier in the day.

A spokesman for the airline said it thought the flight ban was “wrong” and added: “We think it is safe to land, we would not be putting passengers lives in jeopardy.”

This prompted a warning from the CAA that airlines breaching regulations could face legal action.

“If anybody breaks the rules of the air, they could face investigation and possible prosecution,” said a spokeswoman.

One of BA’s long-haul flights was diverted to Brussels, but others made it to Heathrow as the ban was lifted.

The end of restrictions will be a relief to the many Britons stranded abroad by the ash cloud, which closed down British airspace entirely at midday (1100 GMT) Thursday.

Many were left facing arduous journeys by bus, train, taxi and ferry to get home. Restrictions had already been lifted early Tuesday in Scotland and northern England.

The Irish Aviation Authority also announced a phased lifting of flight restrictions from 2100 GMT but cautioned that this was subject to the ash cloud not moving over Ireland during the night.

The CAA said the “immense challenge” of the ash cloud travel chaos had been overcome by gathering top aviation experts from around the world to study the phenomenon.

This led to new guidelines being issued on flying planes through the ash.

“The major barrier to resuming flight has been understanding tolerance levels of aircraft to ash,” said the authority.

“Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas.”

Source: SGGP

Britain extends flight ban until 1800 GMT Sunday

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 4:36 am

LONDON, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Britain has extended a ban on most flights in its airspace until at least 1800 GMT Sunday due to the volcanic ash cloud, air authorities announced.

“The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland shows continued and extensive cover of the UK,” the National Air Traffic Services said in a statement Sunday.

“Based on the latest information from the Met Office, NATS advises that the restrictions currently in place across UK controlled airspace will remain in place until at least 19:00 (UK time) today.”

A man sleeps on April 17, 2010, as he wait for the resumption of air travel at the Marseille-Provence airport, in Marignan, southern France. Around 20 French airports have been closed since Thursday by the cloud of ash released from the volcanic eruption in Iceland. AFP PHOTO

NATS said it would continue to provide information from the Met Office national weather service and would provide a further update at around 9:00 am (0800 GMT).

The Met Office said it had detected evidence of ash dust over Britain and had reports of it reaching the ground.

“We continue to look for weather windows that will allow air space restrictions to be lifted,” it said.

A research flight Friday found “three distinct layers of ash, from fine particles at low levels to large particles around 8,000 feet (2,400 metres),” it said.

“All these observations are consistent with our forecast plumes for where the ash cloud would spread and how it would mix through the atmosphere.”

Source: SGGP

Europe extends flight bans as ash cloud spreads

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 4:36 am

LONDON, April 18, 2010 (AFP) – Millions of people faced worsening travel chaos Sunday as a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland moved further south and east, forcing European countries to extend flight bans into next week.

Passengers wait at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam on April 17, 2010 as planes are grounded as a result of the volcanic eruption in Iceland. AFP photo

France decided to shut the three airports in the Paris area and others in the north of the country until 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on Monday due to the ash cloud that has caused the biggest airspace shutdown since World War II.

Italy also said it would not allow any flights in the north of the country until 0600 GMT Monday, while Belgium, Britain, Ireland and Germany shut their airspace until 1200 GMT Sunday.

Additionally, British Airways cancelled all its flights in and out of London on Sunday. Britain’s air traffic authorities NATS were due to give an update on the situation at 0200 GMT.

Winds blowing the massive cloud eastward from Iceland to Russia will continue in the same direction for at least two days and could go on until the middle of next week, the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on Saturday.

“The ash will continue to be directed towards Britain and Scandinavia,” Teitur Arason, a meteorologist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told AFP.

“That’s the general situation for the coming days… more or less for the next two days or maybe the next four or five days,” he said.

The volcanic ash cloud is heading towards Greece as it moves further south as well as east into Russia, Britain’s meteorological group the Met Office said on Saturday.

Other European nations also moved to extend their flight bans, including Austria to 0000 GMT Sunday and Belgium to 1200 GMT.

Poland said it was shutting its airspace “until further notice”.

The closure of Poland’s airspace has stopped world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, from flying to the southern city of Krakow for Sunday’s funeral of president Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria.

The Kaczynski couple were among 96 people, most of them Polish dignitaries, killed in a plane crash in Russia on April 10 on their way to a World War II memorial service.

Some 17,000 flights in European airspace on Saturday were cancelled due to the cloud of volcanic ash, said Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control in 38 nations.

Whereas a normal Saturday would see 22,000 flights in Europe, Eurocontrol said only about 5,000 were able to operate.

And out of 337 scheduled flights by US carriers to and from Europe, 282 were cancelled Saturday, according to the Air Transport Association of America.

The impact is likely to exceed the airspace shutdown after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the International Civil Aviation Organisation said.

With flights grounded all over Europe, stranded holidaymakers and business travellers sought any means possible to get home — or contented themselves with just staying put.

“EasyJet has assured us that we will be reimbursed for accommodation until Wednesday” when the next flight is due out, said British holidaymaker Karen Apple at Faro airport in Portugal’s Algarve region, the Correio da Manha newspaper reported.

“I don’t know if I should file a complaint against the volcano,” said a Spanish man at Madrid’s Barajas airport who was trying to get a refund for his ticket to Frankfurt.

Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano erupted on Wednesday, sending ash drifting towards Europe at an altitude of about eight to 10 kilometres (five to six miles).

Europe’s three biggest airports — Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt — were closed Saturday, leaving passengers stranded across the world as a global flight backlog built up.

An official for the Eurostar Channel tunnel rail service reported thousands more passengers than normal were set to travel on its trains between London and continental Europe on Saturday.

British businessman Tom Noble said he had to buy a women’s bicycle to board a ferry home from France as the operator had no foot passenger tickets left and would only allow him on if he was a genuine cyclist.

Justifying the widespread airport closures aviation officials have explained that airplane engines could become clogged up and stop working if they tried to fly through the ash.

In the past 20 years, there have been 80 recorded encounters between aircraft and volcanic clouds, causing the near-loss of two Boeing 747s with almost 500 people on board and damage to 20 other planes, experts said.

The International Air Transport Association meanwhile has warned of the economic fallout from the volcano eruption in southeast Iceland.

According to their figures it was costing airlines more than 200 million dollars (230 million euros) a day.

Source: SGGP

Ash cloud causes Europe flight chaos, airlines suffer

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2010 at 11:11 am

Britain and Ireland reimposed flight bans early Saturday as the huge cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland kept millions of air travellers stranded across Europe.

After Friday saw some 16,000 flights cancelled by the drifting dust amid the biggest airspace shutdown since World War II, air traffic had controllers warned that the cloud was likely to cause fresh travel disruption.

That was confirmed early Saturday when Britain’s air authorities reintroduced a flight ban on the country’s entire airspace.

“Current forecasts show that the situation is worsening throughout Saturday,” said NATS, which manages British airspace. It also extended the existing by six hours to 7:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Ireland also reimposed a total flight ban in its airspace until at least 1700 GMT.

“No commercial passenger flights including North American traffic will operate from any Irish airport during this period,” said a statement from the Irish Aviation Authority.

Earlier, Italy’s civil aviation authority announced airspace across the north of the country would be shut down for eight hours on Saturday as the ash cloud passed.

Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic control in 38 nations, had said the ash was moving east and southeast and warned of “significant disruption of air traffic (Saturday)”.

Justifying the widespread airport closures aviation officials have explained that airplane engines could become clogged up and stop working if they tried to fly through the ash.

In the past 20 years, there have been 80 recorded encounters between aircraft and volcanic clouds, causing the near-loss of two Boeing 747s with almost 500 people on board and damage to 20 other planes, experts said.

The International Air Transport Association meanwhile warned Friday of the economic fallout from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southeast Iceland.

According to their figures it was costing airlines more than 200 million dollars (230 million euros) a day.

More smoke and ash had spewed out of the volcano Friday, building up the cloud, which then blew east to stretch from the Atlantic to the Russian capital Moscow and from the Arctic Circle south to Bulgaria.

Europe’s three biggest airports — London Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt — were closed by the ash, leaving passengers stranded across the world as a global flight backlog built up.

Eurocontrol said only 12,000 of the daily 28,000 flights in the affected zone would take off Friday, after about 6,000 were cancelled the day before.

Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland shut down all or most of their airspace.

Lithuania and Norway had gradually reopened theirs.

Budget airline Ryanair cancelled all its flights in northern Europe and the Baltics until 1200 GMT Monday.

Germany closed all its airports Friday, forcing flag carrier Lufthansa, Europe’s biggest airline, to cancel all its flights.

The Eurostar Channel tunnel rail service reported thousands of passengers rushing to get places on its London-Paris trains. It laid on three extra trains, but still could not keep up with demand.

The shutdown also played havoc with diplomatic schedules.

Poland had considered delaying Sunday’s funeral of president Lech Kaczynski because the cloud threatened the flights of US President Barack Obama and other world leaders, but a senior presidential aide insisted it would go ahead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was stranded in Lisbon, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva in Prague and a UN Security Council delegation cancelled a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo that would have flown out of Paris.

Even US pop superstar Whitney Houston had to take a car ferry from Britain to Ireland for a concert in Dublin.

And comedy legend John Cleese, in what sounds like a sketch from his Monty Python days, reportedly paid 5,100 dollars for taxi ride from Oslo to Brussels.

The volcano on the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted on Wednesday, sending ash drifting towards Europe at an altitude of about eight to 10 kilometres (five to six miles).


Source: SGGP

Qatari flight scare diplomat was on Al-Qaeda visit: official

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 at 8:50 am

A Qatari diplomat who sparked a national security scare by joking about setting fire to his shoe on a flight to Denver was on his way to visit an imprisoned Al-Qaeda conspirator, officials said.

Qatari diplomat Mohammed Yacoub Al Madadi from the Embassy of the State of Qatar is pictured in Washington, DC, in this recent photograph taken on March, 25, 2010.

Mohammed al-Modadi, 27, the third secretary and vice consul of the Qatari embassy in Washington, was being released without charge after the incident Wednesday on a United Airlines flight from Washington, DC to Denver.

In a post-script to the bizarre incident, a State Department spokesman said Modadi was traveling to Denver to make a consular visit to a Qatari national being held in a Colorado prison.

US media reports identified the prisoner as Ali al-Marri, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year in connection with the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Modadi set off alarm bells during the flight to Denver after sneaking a smoke in the bathroom and then, when confronted, joking that he was lighting his shoes.

His comments raised fears of a repeat of the 2001 “shoe bomber” incident in which British national Richard Reid tried to blow up an airliner using explosives hidden in his shoe.

An air marshal wrestled the diplomat to the floor, the pilot declared an emergency, two F-16 fighters were scrambled and intercepted the airliner, and top White House officials briefed President Barack Obama, who was en route to Prague to sign a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.

Later officials said there were no explosives on the plane and it was all a misunderstanding.

“It’s expected that he’s going to be turned over today to Qatari officials. I don’t know if he’s still with the FBI or if he’s been turned over to the Qatari officials yet,” a law enforcement official told AFP Thursday.

The source, who asked not to be named, said that even though smoking in airplane restrooms is a federal crime under US law, the diplomat is not likely to be prosecuted.

“He has diplomatic immunity. If he was a US citizen, that’s a violation, but he does have diplomatic immunity,” the official said. “Only a foreign government can lift the immunity.”

The State Department said Thursday it expected a quick diplomatic solution to the affair, adding US authorities had been in close contact with Qatar’s ambassador.

“We are satisfied with the seriousness by which they take what has occurred. That’s why we have confidence that this will be resolved very quickly,” spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, hinted Modadi would soon be sent home. “His ability to function effectively has been significantly compromised,” the official said.

Qatar’s ambassador to Washington Ali Bin Fajad al-Hajari said in a statement the diplomat had been traveling to Denver on official embassy business.

“He was certainly not engaged in any threatening activity,” the ambassador said. “The facts will reveal that this was a mistake, and we urge all concerned parties to avoid reckless judgments or speculation.”

The reaction to Modadi’s actions appeared to have been prompted by fears of a possible repeat of the foiled Christmas Day bombing, when a Nigerian passenger tried to blow up a plane by igniting an explosive secreted in his underwear.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the swift actions of the air marshals.

“We always treat security-related incidents seriously until verified otherwise, and thankfully this incident posed no actual security threat,” she said.


Source: SGGP

Qatari diplomatic held in US flight scare

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US air marshals wrestled a Qatari diplomat to the floor on a flight to Denver in a security scare that prompted fighter jets to be scrambled and top White House aides to brief President Barack Obama, officials said.

But in the end, the incident on Wednesday turned out to be a false alarm, triggered when the Qatari reportedly lit a cigarette in one of the plane’s restrooms and then, when confronted, joked he was trying to ignite his shoes.

Airport staff are seen outside the main terminal of Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado. AFP photo

The plane landed safely at Denver International Airport following the disturbance, and US officials later said it appeared the passenger was not trying to blow up the plane, although the incident was under investigation.

Qatar’s ambassador to Washington Ali Bin Fajad al-Hajari said in a statement that the diplomat was traveling to Denver on official embassy business.

“He was certainly not engaged in any threatening activity,” the ambassador said. “The facts will reveal that this was a mistake, and we urge all concerned parties to avoid reckless judgments or speculation.”

But the scare prompted fighter jets to scramble and intercept the flight amid fears of a possible repeat of a passenger’s foiled attempt to bring down a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day as it approached to land at Detroit.

“The president was briefed by National Security Advisor General Jim Jones and National Security Staff Chief of Staff Denis McDonough at 8:50 pm EDT and appropriate actions were taken to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” a White official said on condition of anonymity.

“The incident is currently under investigation,” the official added.

Obama was aboard Air Force One at the time, en route to Prague to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

Law enforcement authorities initially notified key lawmakers that US air marshals subdued the Qatari national after he apparently sought to “ignite their (his) shoe” on the flight, a congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Air marshals jumped in, and the cockpit wasn’t breached,” the official said.

The man was identified in US media reports as Qatari diplomat Mohammed al-Modadi, 27, who as the third secretary and vice consul of the Qatari embassy in Washington enjoys full diplomatic immunity.

The FBI was investigating the incident, but a US official told AFP the incident was “not what it appeared to be” and there was no attempt to detonate a bomb.

NBC News said a search of the man found no explosives and that bomb-sniffing dogs found no traces of explosives aboard the aircraft.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the passenger was placed in custody, adding it was “monitoring” the incident.

Federal officials told NBC the incident occurred half an hour before United Airlines flight 663 was due to make a scheduled stop in Denver on a flight that originated at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

A flight attendant smelled smoke as a passenger came out of a restroom, and alerted an air marshal, the report said.

The marshal confronted the man, and then wrestled him to the ground after he made the statement about lighting his shoes, NBC said.

A US security official acknowledged “it may have been a massive misunderstanding,” telling ABC that Al-Modadi may have been making a “sarcastic” comment when he was confronted by two air marshals.

The pilot declared an emergency, and two F-16 fighter jets raced to intercept the aircraft around 6:45 pm (0045 GMT Thursday) under the authority of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

“Shortly before landing in Denver, a passenger possibly caused a disturbance on the plane. Upon intercepting the aircraft, the F-16s escorted the aircraft until it landed safely without incident at approximately 6:50 pm (0050 GMT) where the plane was met by local law enforcement,” NORAD said.

The plane was carrying 157 passengers and six crew members on a flight originally scheduled to ultimately arrive in Las Vegas after a scheduled stop in Denver.

The incident came a week after the United States unveiled new security measures subjecting all US-bound plane passengers to screening methods that use real-time intelligence to target potential threats, replacing the mandatory screening of passengers from a blacklist of 14 mainly Muslim countries.

The measures were announced in the wake of a Nigerian man’s failed attempt to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam on Christmas Day.

Source: SGGP