British Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Italy

The pilot reported that a bomb was suspected to be on board, but authorities declared it a false alarm.


A British passenger plane en route to an Egyptian resort made an emergency landing Friday in Brindisi, southern Italy, after the pilot reported that a bomb was suspected to be on board, but a thorough search of the aircraft turned up no bomb and authorities declared it a false alarm.

"The search is over. Nothing was found on board. It was a false alarm," said Salvatore De Paolis, a border police officer at the Brindisi airport.

Excel Airways, which operated the Boeing 767, said the captain made the decision to land in Italy after a passenger found a note written an airsickness bag that read: "There's a bomb on this aircraft." Excel Airways official Jane Sebuliba called the landing "a precautionary diversion."

Italy's Air Force said it sent an F-16 to escort the plane to the airport, where all of the passengers safely disembarked.

The airline said all security checks where followed at London's Gatwick airport prior to its departure for Hurghada, Egypt at 1045GMT. The plane, carrying 269 passengers and nine crew, was diverted to Brindisi three hours later.

De Paolis said authorities searching the plane had recovered a handwritten note in English that said there was a bomb on the plane. It was not clear who wrote the note, but De Paolis said it was likely it was a passenger on a previous flight.

"The bag was inside the seat pocket. The writing wasn't visible, and wouldn't have been seen by the cleaning crew," he said.

Excel said the flight was expected to depart later Friday for the Red Sea coastal resort of Hurghada, Egypt, famous for snorkeling and is a prime destination for low-cost flights from Europe.

The emergency landing came amid a series of terror alerts and scares centered around planes.

A 59-year-old woman caused a security scare when she allegedly passed notes to crew members, urinated on the floor and made comments the crew believed were references to al-Qaida and the Sept. 11 attacks on the London-to-Washington, D.C., flight on Wednesday.

United 923, with 182 passengers and 12 crew members, was diverted to Boston and landed safely - with two fighter jets escorting it - after the pilot declared an emergency on board.

That scare came a week after London authorities said they foiled a terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights. British authorities are questioning 23 people in connection with the alleged terror plot, while 17 people have been arrested in Pakistan.

And a West Virginia airport terminal was evacuated Thursday after two bottles of liquid found in a woman's carryon luggage twice tested positive for explosives residue.

Chemical tests turned up no explosives in the bottles, and the airport was reopened after nearly 10 hours.


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