Michelle Obama Plane Has Close Call After Gaffe

Runway mistake blamed on air traffic controller
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2011 4:42 PM CDT
Michelle Obama Plane Has Close Call After Gaffe
First lady Michelle Obama visits the Warrior and Family Support Center April 13 in San Antonio.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(Newser) – The latest air traffic controller's gaffe is sure to get the attention of the White House. A plane carrying Michelle Obama and Jill Biden had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base at the last minute yesterday because it would have been way too close to a military cargo jet taking off, reports the Washington Post. The mistake has been pinned on a controller at a radar control center. “Not only did he get them too close, he told the [Andrews controller] that they were farther apart than they were,” said an FAA manager. It was "really bad controller technique."

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Because of the massive turbulence created when a cargo jet of that size takes off, safety rules require 5 miles of separation between an incoming plane on the same runway. The White House plane was about 3 miles away before Andrews took over and eventually ordered the landing to be aborted. “In the grand scheme of things, events like this happen fairly frequently,” said a second federal official. “Unfortunately, this one involves a presidential plane.” And comes after a spate of sleeping-on-the-job (and even watching movies) scares.

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