Air Force One makes emergency landing in Iran
TEHRAN, April 1 (APN) - The plane carrying U.S. President Bill Clinton
was forced to make an emergency landing in Iran tonight, after experiencing
"catastrophic engine failure", according to sources in Washington
Mr. Clinton was on his way to Bahrain to visit U.S. navy personnel there,
after attending an emergency meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, dealing
with the Kosovo crisis. Bahrain is the headquarters for the U.S. navy fifth
A Whitehouse spokesman said that the plane, Air Force One, apparently
collided with a bird shortly after entering Iranian airspace from Turkey
around 17:40 local time (13:10 GMT). The bird went through the aircraft's
right engine, "literally shredding it to pieces."
The plane pilot and crew managed to put the aircraft on a slow, steady
descent from 30,000 feet, and landed in a military air base in the city
of Hamedan, 400 km southwest of Tehran.
According to the plane's first officer, two Iranian F-4 fighter jets
were scrambled from the base to provide visual reports to ground crews
on the extent of damage to the aircraft, and to escort it to a safe landing.
A Pentagon spokesman said that U.S. air force and navy personnel in
the Gulf were put on high alert following the incident although there
have been no indications of any military moves by U.S. forces in the area.
Iranian aircraft engineers and technicians are said to be examining
the plane and have plans for replacing the entire right engine in 48 hours,
to permit a flight back to Europe for more extensive repairs, if needed.
Two spare engines have been flown to Hamedan from Tehran.
According to the Iranian news agency, IRNA, immediately following the
landing, the Iranian government dispatched a jet to Hamedan to transfer
Mr. Clinton and his company to Tehran.
The U.S. President is said to be spending the night at the Niavaran
guest complex, formerly a palace of the Shah of Iran, in Tehran.
Unusually heavy security measures were witnessed in Tehran after the
arrival of Mr. Clinton's jet. The area around the palace was cordoned off
for miles, and Mr. Clinton and those accompanying him were flown to the
palace grounds by several army helicopters from Tehran's Mehrabad airport.
Mr. Clinton has been in constant satellite phone contact with the Whitehouse
and according to his spokesman, is in good health and spirits.
The Iranian government appears to have been at a loss as to the right
course of action following this event. No reports of official contacts
between the two sides have yet surfaced, although several officials from
the Iranian foreign ministry were reportedly on hand to greet the Clinton
party upon landing in Tehran.
However an Iranian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity,
stated that the incident had caught the Tehran leadership by surprise,
especially considering that news of it had been distributed on April fools
day by a well known clown.
(c) Copyright 1999 Alliance Press Network