Phone Line Problems Knock Out Radar at Rome's Airports

ROME_A telephone line problem knocked out radar at Rome's two airports Thursday night, grounding more than 20 flights for hours and allowing only some landings, flight safety officials said.

After more than two hours the line was repaired, telephone officials said, and the first few flights started to take off from Leonardo da Vinci airport, Rome's main airport.

A passenger aboard one grounded plane, an Alitalia flight bound from Leonardo da Vinci for Brindisi, in southern Italy, told The Associated Press by cell phone that the pilot informed the passengers early Friday that flights were starting to take off every 10 minutes and that their flight was No. 22 on the wait list to take to the skies, mean they might have hours to wait.

About a half-dozen flights at Ciampino, Rome's smaller airport, were also grounded, and were unlikely to take off after the repair since for environmental reasons takeoffs are regularly banned at the airport after midnight.

The control tower at Leonardo da Vinci said the radar went down at 9:45 p.m. (2045 GMT).

During the outage, some flights were able to land following visual procedures, tower officials said.

Alessandro Di Giacomo, a spokesman for Italy's flight safety agency ENAV, said that a power problem at a telephone company facility on the outskirts of Rome caused the phone line to go down.

The line carried data to a flight control center at Ciampino which serves both airports, officials said.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that actress Sharon Stone was aboard a flight from London that was able to land at Ciampino.

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