WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government ordered a one-day grounding of crop-dusting planes nationwide, and newspapers reported possible links between the aircraft and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The stand-down Sunday marked the second time that agricultural pilots have been told not to fly since the attacks.
Asked about the new grounding, the FBI said it was one of the steps the bureau has taken out of "an abundance of caution" and "in reaction to every bit of information and threats received during the course of this investigation."
James Callan, executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, said he got a call from a Federal Aviation Administration official about 8 o'clock Sunday morning.
"They said it was a national security issue," said Callan. "I made some calls and the indication was that there still is no specific threat, but the FBI apparently ordered this and they just want to make sure that everyone in the ag aviation industry is keeping their eyes and ears open."
Three Middle Eastern men inquired about crop-duster planes during visits earlier this year to a single-runway airport in Belle Glade, Fla., The Washington Post and the Miami Herald reported in Monday editions. One of the men has since been identified as Mohamed Atta, believed to be one of the suicide hijackers in the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Virginia.
The Post also reported that government investigators found a crop-duster manual among the possessions of Zacarias Moussaoui, who is in federal custody.
FAA spokesman Scott Brenner said, "The intelligence community came to us and encouraged us to shut down the crop dusters."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld outlined the potential threat Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation," saying that countries sponsoring terrorism have "very active chemical and biological warfare programs."
"We know that they are in close contact with terrorist networks around the world," he said.
On the Web:
National Agricultural Aviation Association: http://www.agaviation.org/
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