An airplane carrying First Lade Michelle Obama had to abort landing at Andrews Airforce base after coming too close to a 200-ton military cargo jet, federal officials confirmed, late Tuesday.
The incident, which occurred Monday, was the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to officials, under condition of anonymity.
The first lady was returning from a television appearance and other events with Jill Biden in New York and was aboard a Boeing 737 that is part of the presidential fleet of jets when the error occurred on final approach to Andrews.
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 manager said the TRACON controller exhibited “really bad controller technique. Not only did he get them too close, he told the Andrews controller that they were farther apart than they were,” he said.
When the handoff occurred, the planes were 3.08 miles apart, radar shows, but the TRACON controller told the Andrews tower that they were four miles apart. Before handing off, the TRACON controller warned Obama’s pilot of potential wake turbulence.