ATLANTA (AP) -- A Delta Air Lines flight en route to Japan was forced back to the United States on Thursday after Russian air traffic controllers said it didn't have permission to fly through their air space, an airline spokesman said.
Delta Flight 55, carrying 203 passengers and 15 crew members, was about 20 minutes into Russian air space when controllers there notified the pilots that the flight lacked proper clearance, Delta spokesman Russ Williams said. He said the plane turned around and re-crossed the Pacific Ocean, landing in San Francisco early Thursday.
"From Delta's perspective, the proper paperwork has been filed and we will certainly be looking into the matter," Williams said. "This is a normal daily flight."
Robert Usov, a spokesman for the civil aviation sector of the Russian Air Traffic Control Center in Moscow, said Delta had failed to send a request in time for permission to fly through Russian airspace but that it was given special clearance by Moscow.
"The flight wasn't in our plan. However, we decided to let the plane (fly) through our airspace and gave corresponding orders to the Khabarovsk regional air traffic control center. I don't know what the problem was but, I repeat, we let the Delta flight in," Usov said. "Maybe, there was some misunderstanding."
Top officials at the office in Khabarovsk, the control site for flights entering or leaving Russia over the Pacific route, weren't available for comment. They had already left the office.
Williams said the flight path from Atlanta to Narita, Japan, passes through Russian air space every day.
He said the plane had been in the air for about 9 1/2 hours when it was told to turn around.
The flight to San Francisco took 5 1/2 hours more.
Passengers were given overnight accommodations in San Francisco and were being re-booked on flights for later Thursday, Williams said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.