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Fighter Wing's aircraft diverted

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

By Walt Wasilewski

About 100 members of the 174th Fighter Wing were safe Tuesday after their plane, which had taken off from Saudi Arabia to return here before the terrorist attacks occurred, was diverted to an undisclosed location outside the United States.

Officials at Hancock Field, where the New York Air National Guard unit and its F-16s are based, were in contact with the group before noon Tuesday, said Lt. Jeff Brown, the unit's public information officer. The plane landed safely and the 174th members were awaiting word on when they can travel, Brown said.

The 174th members had been at the Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia since mid-August to help patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. They had been expected to land at Hancock about 1 p.m. Tuesday, but the chartered commercial plane was diverted.

The unit's support staff contacted family members of those headed home to inform them, Brown said.

F-16s were seen taking off from Hancock at least three times Tuesday. Two fighter jets took off at 10:42 a.m., three jets were seen leaving at around 1:30 p.m. and two more took to the sky at 3:55 p.m. Brown said he could not comment on 174th Fighter Wing operations.

Officials at the 174th formed a command center Tuesday morning, Brown said, to monitor the situation across the nation as well as control heightened security at the base.

"There's certainly a sense of urgency and a sense of concern, but everyone is going about their business in the way that they are trained to do," Brown said.

Other military installations here were on alert, too.

Lt. Commander Sybil Bradley at the Naval Reserve Center on Molloy Road in Mattydale said Tuesday that officials are taking extra precautions by checking identification cards at the door. So far she had not been told to recall naval personnel or to lock down the building, Bradley said.

- Pedro Ramirez I contributed to this report.

© 2001 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

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