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Fri, Apr 02, 2004

Homebuilt Mistakenly Lands At US Airbase In Germany

Pilot "Lucky" Not To Have Been Shot Down

It probably wasn't until after he'd landed that a 68-year old German retiree learned how close he'd come to being shot out of the sky.

Police in Bitburg say the unidentified pilot, flying a Super Dimona "homebuilt" had radioed his intentions to land at the town's commercial airport. But after closing to within about eight miles of the airport, authorities say he turned off his navigational aids and apparently became a bit disoriented.

Instead of landing at Bitburg, the man flew right into the pattern at the huge American airbase at Spangdahlem. The base is home of the 52nd Fighter Wing, the single biggest fighter operation in all of Europe, equipped with F-16s and A-10s.

Did he notice the military aircraft lined up on the tarmac? Well... no.

Did he notice the warnings from the Spangdahlem tower? Er... nope.

But you can bet he sure noticed the MPs who were out on the field to greet him.

Police say he was lucky not to have been shot down. Bitburg authorities were quick to praise the "prudent" reaction by US forces tracking the civilian flight.

FMI: www.spangdahlem.af.mil

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