Report: Plane Carrying First Lady In Near Miss At Andrews Air Force Base

April 19, 2011

Eyder Peralta

Because of an air traffic controller's mistake, a military cargo jet and a plane carrying Michelle Obama came too close to each other, causing the Obama plane to abort its Monday landing at Andrews Air Force Base. Citing unnamed federal officials, The Washington Post reports:

The controllers in the tower at Andrews recognized that the massive C-17 and 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 Post reports that the mistake was made by the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control, which directs approaches and departures in the mid-Atlantic region. This news comes at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is facing multiple controversies surrounding sleeping or distracted controllers.

The FAA, reports the Post, could only confirm that the first lady was on the plane that landed at Andrews. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.