Cruise's visit to drug rehab center causes security alert at plant

Sunday, October 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MCALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ A high security alert was issued at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant when a small airplane carrying a famous passenger flew low over the facility and appeared to drop something, authorities said.

The aircraft carrying Oscar-nominated actor Tom Cruise was landing in the southeastern Oklahoma town on Sept. 26 so he could travel to a nearby drug rehabilitation center with ties to the Church of Scientology.

The Beechwood aircraft flew low over the plant and appeared to be lowering its landing gear when it increased its altitude, said Mark Hughes, a spokesman for the plant.

Some witnesses thought they saw something drop from the plane and security was called, Hughes said.

Officials placed the plant, which stores and ships conventional munitions, under lockdown until authorities could determine what had happened, he said. Security already had been heightened following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

A search of the area found that nothing had been dropped, and what people probably saw was the plane's landing gear going up and down, Hughes said.

Cruise's plane landed at the local airport. The pilot may have mistaken a half-mile long cement pad at the plant to be the airport's landing strip, authorities said.

``It's lined with lots of lights, so you can work at night,'' Hughes said of the pad, which is used to load and unload items.

By the time McAlester police and FBI agents arrived, Cruise and his party were headed for the Narconon Arrowhead Drug Rehabilitation and Prevention Services facility on the shores of Lake Eufaula.

Police Lt. Darrell Miller said the FBI contacted Narconon and had the pilot sent back to talk to officials.

Cruise was there to tour the facility and offer his support of the program, Narconon Arrowhead President Michael Anzalone told the McAlester News-Capital & Democrat.

``The visit was to see Arrowhead and see the expansion,'' Anzalone said. ``He was here for a couple of hours.''

Narconon uses saunas, vitamins and a special diet as part of its treatment program. The plan was developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.

Cruise is a devout Scientologist.