July 24, 2005

Germany to ban private flights over Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to introduce a ban on
flights by private planes over central Berlin after a small
aircraft crashed on Friday near the Reichstag parliament
building and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's office.

"We will introduce a no-fly zone for recreational planes
over the government quarter," German Transport Minister Manfred
Stolpe told a news conference on Sunday.

"This will prevent hobby pilots and private planes from
flying over the area near the Reichstag and the Chancellery."

Stolpe said the ban would be introduced after details were
ironed out with the Interior and Defense Ministries and Berlin

A single-engine aircraft crashed on Friday a couple of
hundred meters (yards) from the Reichstag and the Chancellery,
Schroeder's Berlin residence and office.

The pilot, the only person on board, died. No one else was
harmed. Police believe the 39-year-old man intended to commit
suicide and have ruled out any link to terrorism.

But with a federal election looming in September and this
month's bomb attacks in London raising concerns about the
threat of terrorism, the pressure on the government to act was

Earlier this year Germany adopted a law that gives the
defense minister the power to authorize the shooting down of
hijacked aircraft.

The law was drawn up after fears the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
on U.S. cities using hijacked jets could be copied in Germany.
It was given added impetus after a man stole a light plane and
circled skyscrapers in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital,
in January 2003.