An Air National Guard plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama aborted a landing Monday. The Boeing 737 came within three miles of a C-17 cargo jet as the two aircraft approached Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and controllers instructed the Boeing to abort its landing. The Federal Aviation Administration requires a minimum separation of five miles between planes when one aircraft is as large as the 200-ton cargo jet.
The incident involving the first lady and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, occurred at about 5 p.m. on Monday when a Boeing 737 belonging to the Air National Guard, one of several guard planes used by the White House, came within about three miles of a massive C-17 cargo plane as the planes were approaching Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to land, according to the FAA and Maj. Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for Andrews.
The FAA requires a minimum separation of five miles between two planes when the plane in the lead is as large as the 200-ton military cargo jet, in order to avoid dangerous wake turbulence that can severely affect the trailing aircraft.
Andrews’ civilian air traffic controllers initially ordered Mrs. Obama’s plane to conduct a series of turns to bring it farther from the military jet. When that didn’t provide enough distance, controllers realized that there might not be enough time for the cargo plane to clear the Andrews runway before Mrs. Obama’s plane landed.
From now on flights carrying Mrs. Obama or Vice President Joe Biden will be handled by an air traffic supervisor rather than a controller, the agency said in a statement. The new rules apply to approaches and departures handled by a regional air traffic facility in Warrenton, Va., and takeoffs and landings at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland where the presidential fleet is based.
Why wasn’t the Air National Guard Boeing 737 carrying Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden given priority clearance over other aircraft in the area?