First Lady's Plane Gets Too Close to Cargo Jet - NBC4 Washington

First Lady's Plane Gets Too Close to Cargo Jet

Air traffic controller mistake may be to blame



    Details about the evasive measures a plane carrying Michelle Obama and Jill Biden had to make to avoid hitting a military jumbo jet. (Published Wednesday, April 20, 2011)

    Federal aviation officials are investigating an air scare involving a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama near Andrews Air Force Base.

    Radar apparently showed the first lady’s plane was dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet Monday, The Washington Post reported. The first lady's plane aborted its landing.

    Ultimately controllers at Andrews feared the cargo jet would not clear the runway in time, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies.

    The FAA released the following statement: “FAA controllers at Andrews Air Force Base instructed an incoming Boeing 737 on approach to Runway 19 to perform a ‘go around’ on Monday, April 18, 2011, just after 5 p.m. because the plane did not have the required amount of separation behind a military C17.”

    Neither plane was ever in danger, according to the FAA.

    The incident may be the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake at the Warrenton radar control center, The Post reported.

    The controllers in the tower at Andrews recognized that the massive C-17 and the Obama flight, designated EXEC1F, a classification for a plane carrying members of the president’s family, were far too close when the Warrenton controller handed off responsibility for the two aircraft.

    They ordered the Obama plane to execute a series of S-turns in an effort to create a safe distance between it and the C-17, federal officials said. When those maneuvers failed to achieve the required distance between the two planes — and the Andrews controllers realized the cargo jet would not have time to get off the runway before the presidential plane arrived — they aborted landing of the Obama plane and ordered it to circle the airport.

     The FAA has been dealing with a series of air traffic controller controversies including sleeping on the job – at Reagan National Airport – and recently watching a movie on the job.

    The first lady was returning to the area from a television appearance in New York.