Opinion: Plane carrying Michelle Obama gets too close to military cargo jet due to error with air traffic control

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This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

A plane carrying First Lady Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a military cargo jet Monday due to a mistake by air traffic control personnel.

The Washington Post is reporting that the Boeing 737 with Michelle Obama onboard was preparing to land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland when air traffic control instructed the White House plane to execute a series of S-turns so it would not collide with a 200-ton C-17.

When it became a greater possibility that the C-17 wouldn’t be able to get off the runway quickly enough for the White House plane to land, the Andrews controllers instructed the 737 to abort its landing.


‘In the grand scheme of things, events like this happen fairly frequently,’ a federal official who works with the air traffic control system told the Post anonymously. ‘Unfortunately, this one involves a presidential plane.’

A second FAA manager told the Post that the error began with an air traffic controller at the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Warrenton, Va. ‘Not only did he get them too close, he told the [Andrews controller] that they were farther apart than they were,’ the manager said.

[For the record, 3:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the plane was trying to land at Edwards Air Force Base.]

[For the record, 4:12 p.m.: This post originally said the first lady’s plane ‘nearly collided with the military jet’. In fact, the military jet did not clear off the runway soon enough as the White House plane was on approach. Obama’s plane was 3 miles from the airport when the order came for it to do a ‘go-around.’]


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-- Tony Pierce