Air Traffic Controllers Nearly Blow Up Michelle Obama

Air Traffic Controllers Nearly Blow Up Michelle Obama

America’s useless air traffic controllers screwed up again on Monday – except this “mistake” nearly led to Michelle Obama and her less-important colleague Jill Biden getting blown up in an aeroplane crash. Spoiler: They survived.

The Washington Post reports that America’s top two gals were returning to Washington from an appearance on The View in New York City yesterday when their plane “came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake”. The Michelle ‘n’ Jill plane had to abort its landing in order to create more distance between itself and the C-17 military plane. The Post explains:

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 realised 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.

Because an airplane’s wake causes severe turbulence and, in extreme cases, can cause a plane that enters it to crash, the FAA has strict standards on how much distance controllers should maintain between planes.

A fully loaded C17 can create such turbulence that the FAA requires a 5-mile separation behind it and the next aeroplane. The presidential fleet 737 already was far closer than that when the handoff took place from the Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility in Warrenton.

But hey guess what? No one got blown up. And, as the Post writes, “The go-around is seen by controllers as a fairly routine safety procedure that keeps planes out of greater trouble.” So credit the last air traffic controllers for their deft problem-solving abilities.

[WaPo; image via Getty]