First Lady's plane has close call
April 19th, 2011
07:09 PM ET

First Lady's plane has close call

By CNN Wires Staff

WASHINGTON (CNN) -  A plane carrying Michelle Obama had to abort its landing on Monday after it came too close to a military C-17 cargo plane, according to a senior administration official and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The planes were three miles apart, when they are supposed to be five miles apart, the official told CNN. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating what went wrong, as it is believed to be an air traffic controller mistake, the official said.

Check out Ed Henry's live report on CNN

The White House does not believe the first lady's life was ever in danger, the senior official said.

The FAA said in a statement controllers at Andrews Air Force Base instructed an incoming Boeing 737 to perform a "go around" "because the plane did not have the required amount of separation" behind the military plane. The FAA is investigating. "The aircraft were never in any danger," the agency said.The landing was briefly aborted and Obama's plane had to circle, the official said.

Obama was actually on a C-40, a military version of the 737 that was part of the Air National Guard - not the regular air force fleet used by VIPs at Andrews, said Maj. Michelle Lai of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base.

The C-17 in question was on the runway, so the FAA did not want Obama's plane to be caught in the "jet wash," Lai said. That refers to the force of the air from the back of the C-17.

"It's important to know the FAA made the right call and at no time was the first lady's life in danger," Lai said.

When the Potomac TRACON, the regional radar facility, handed off the plane to the Andrews Air Force Base tower, the planes were three miles apart, a government official told CNN. "Both facilities knew how far apart they were" at the time of the handoff, the official said. But the official declined to say why the hand-off occurred.

The TRACON could have slowed Obama's plane down or order it to turn earlier, the official said. Why that wasn't done is under investigation. But "it was a controlled situation," the government official said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information on the incident and will be making an assessment to determine whether it will investigate more closely.


Topics: Michelle Obama • The News

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. anon

    Someone said this sort of thing is not uncommon. but i'd say it is and should be uncommon involving the first lady. how could they mess up like that?

    April 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  2. Liz Carter in Georgia

    I've come to believe with my whole heart that whatever happens or is waged against this FIRST FAMILY, period, is indicative of the evil hatred and conspiracies that reek from the 'powers that be'. They claim that this sort of thing is 'not uncommon'? Why then, did the media feel the need to report it? And keep reporting it? It's a disrepectful, degrading, dismissive antic to show us, who ARE watchmen, what they could do if they chose to; and that they still have the power! Watchout President & Mrs Obama!

    April 20, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  3. Jay in NC

    This is all absurd. The First Date was not in any danger. The planes were 3 miles apart. This is common, why do you think they call it air traffic control? Anyone that flies knows about holding patterns. 30-45 min over Chicago is not uncommon. CNN's Ed Henry was on the flight and said that he did not notice any thing different with the approach or landing. This man has flown 100s times out of that same air port, he should know.

    If their is any evil it was on the plane, The First Date is one angry woman ready to take what she thinks the world owes her. Git out of my way cargo plane, tonight is my date night! If there was danger why did not the family express concern for the safety of the pilots in the other plane? Hmmm, maybe their true selfishness is shining through.

    April 20, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  4. Liz Carter in Georgia

    No. The evil, angry one wasn't on the plane at all; the evil, angry one lives in NC!

    April 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  5. Ander

    "Obama was actually on a C-40, a military version of the 737 that was part of the Air National Guard – not the regular air force fleet used by VIPs at Andrews, said Maj. Michelle Lai of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base."

    I suggest you get the 89th AW Commander's comment on the statement attributed to Maj. Lai.

    April 21, 2011 at 10:13 am |