Blairs' holiday jet in US runway scare

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The Independent US

Tony Blair's winter holiday got off to a dramatic start in America when the plane on which he and his family were travelling overshot the runway when it landed.

The Prime Minister and his family were travelling to Miami, Florida, to stay with former Bee Gee Robin Gibb. They were arriving in Miami last night when the incident happened.

The plane overshot the runway and engineers had to turn the plane round so that it could taxi safety to the airport gate for passengers to disembark.

The incident caused a 45-minute delay but no one was hurt and the plane was undamaged.

Agent Kim Bruce, of the United States Secret Service, added: "Last night Prime Minister Blair was on a British Airways flight that overshot the runway at Miami International Airport, although it didn't leave the pavement.

"It was too close to the end of the runway so it had to be pulled back. It then made its turn then taxied over to the gate under it own steam.

"It was a little bit late arriving at the gate as a result but there were no injuries."

Laura Brown, spokeswoman for US aviation safety body the Federal Aviation Administration, said: "The plane took out a couple of runway lights at the end of the runway.

"The taxiway it missed was the last one at the end of the runway. It was on a runway safety area, which is a buffer zone at the end of the runway which is capable of handling the weight of the aircraft. It is not like it was in the grass or on the mud."

Ms Brown said it was not clear why the plane had overshot the runway, adding that it had not been decided whether or not to carry out an investigation.

It is understood that Mr Blair was travelling with his wife Cherie and some of his children.

John Campbell, co-manager of Gibb, 57, said: "It's a private holiday and it's a private arrangement. They are friends."

Passengers on board the plane told WSVN-TV in Miami that police and rescue vehicles quickly surrounded the aircraft.

Karen Queen, from London, said: "We just thought there must have been someone on board who shouldn't have been on board."

Gary Cooper, also from London, added: "The captain just said there was a problem with the aircraft and they were checking it out and making sure it was OK to move."

A BA spokesman said BA flight 209 had landed at Miami International Airport at 6.17pm local time.

He said: "They are doing resurfacing work on part of the runway and the captain came to a stop because he couldn't see the proper turn-off point to the taxiway.

"He radioed the control tower for assistance and BA engineers came out."

He said 345 passengers were on board the plane.

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed Mr Blair was on his winter holidays.