Michelle Obama Involved in Midair Near Miss; Air Traffic Controllers Under Fire

Michelle Obama Involved in Midair Near Miss; Air Traffic Controllers Under Fire

Another dangerous miscue by air traffic controllers has now touched the highest levels of power in America. The plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a military cargo jet in the skies over Maryland.

It’s the latest embarrassing error and potentially disastrous mistake at the nation’s airports.

On Monday, the first lady’s plane was on approach to Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington, D.C., when an air traffic controller in Virginia reportedly misstated the distance between her plane and a military cargo jet. Her plane had to circle back and turn around again.

The plane carrying Obama, a military version of a Boeing 737, was three miles behind the C-17 but was supposed to be five  miles behind because of the possibility of encountering turbulence from the cargo plane’s wake, reports the Washington Post. Anyone who has been in the midst of severe turbulence cause by entering air pockets or due to inclement weather can certainly understand how scary and precarious the situation can be.

The planes were too close because of an error by a civilian air traffic controller at a low-altitude control center in Virginia, according to a government official involved in following up on the incident. But the official described the event to The New York Times as “routine.’’

Not since the Ronald Reagan administration exactly 30 years ago has the air traffic control industry been under such fire. Back then, air traffic controllers tried to flex their muscle and go on strike, but Reagan went gangster, firing and replacing them all.

Today, we expect several heads to roll like bowling balls over this latest egregious mishap that put the first lady in potential peril.

The controller in Virginia, handing off the approaching plane to controllers in the tower at Andrews, at first misstated the distance separating the two planes, saying that they were four miles apart when in fact the gap had closed to three miles, the official said.
While it was a close call, airline pilot Jim Baker says Obama wasn’t in any real danger and that things like this actually happen pretty often.

Yah, okay, Mr. Baker, whatever you say. That sounds something similar to when the pilot comes over the loud speaker and says the plane is experiencing “mild” turbulence when, in fact, the plane is nearly doing somersaults and back-flips in the air.

–terry shropshire

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