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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 June, 2004, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Round-the-world pilot lands in trouble
Pipistrel Sinus 912
Has Russia ended the record attempt? (Picture: RTV Slovenia)

A pilot attempting to fly around the world solo in an ultralight plane has been forced to land by two MiG fighters after entering Russian air space.

Slovene aviator Matevz Lenarcic's plan to break the world endurance record for a solo ultralight flight was brought to an abrupt halt on Thursday when he crossed from Mongolia into Siberia.

The Russian air force, which says he had no permission to enter their airspace, ordered two MiG-29 fighters to scramble. They forced Mr Lenarcic to land at Chita, Russian and Slovenian reports said.

His route had taken him from Slovenia, across the Balkans, Turkey and Central Asia. He was hoping to head across China, the Pacific, South America and back to Europe.

Legal action

On Friday, Interfax news agency said Russia planned to prosecute the pilot.

"A criminal case has been opened against the pilot of a Slovenian aircraft for violating Russia's airspace," Eduard Truskalov, spokesman for Russia's 14th Air Army, told the agency.

But the spokeswoman for the project, Suzana Perc, insisted Mr Lenarcic had arranged all the necessary permits to fly across the territory.

"He is safe. They are verifying his identity, so that I believe that there won't be any major complications. He is going to be detained for a day or two," she told Slovene radio.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying his permission to fly in an air corridor had expired before the plane crossed into Russia.

Mr Lenarcic was flying a Pipistrel Sinus 912, designed and built in Slovenia. According to the project's website, the plane - a microlight motorglider - can glide across vast distances using barely any fuel.

He began his 42,000km (26,000-mile) journey from Ajdovscina in north-western Slovenia on 6 June.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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