A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama had to abort its landing Tuesday at Andrews Air Force Base after an air traffic controller allowed her jet to fly dangerously close to a big military plane, according to reports.
Obama was aboard a Boeing 737 returning from New York that was tailing a 200-ton C-17 – a gigantic cargo jet that creates such a turbulent wake, it can cause other planes to crash. Obama’s plane was ordered to execute a series of turns and then told to abort landing because the military jet, which had landed, could not clear the runway in time, The Washington Post first reported.
The Federal Aviation Administration requires other planes to maintain a distance of five miles from C-17s and the plane carrying Obama was only 3.8 miles away.
The investigation comes on the heels of FAA controversies involving controllers who have been sleeping on the job, and, in one instance, watching a movie.
“In the grand scheme of things, events like this happen fairly frequently,” an official who works with the air traffic control system but is not authorized to speak publicly, told the Post. “Unfortunately, this one involves a presidential plane.”
Investigators are interviewing controllers at the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility.
“The manager and tower controller at Andrews did several things to try to increase the separation on final [approach] before ordering a go-around,” said a senior FAA manager familiar with the incident who was not authorized to speak to The Washington Post.
The FAA manager said the TRACON controller exhibited “really bad controller technique.”
“Not only did he get them too close,” said the FAA manager, but the TRACON controller told the Andrews controller in charge of the hand off that the planes “were farther apart than they were” by .2 miles.