I had a "near-death experience" on Air Force One today and didn't even realize it – at the time, at least.
Everything seemed routine. I was (and still am, until about midnight Wednesday) the print "pool" reporter traveling with President Obama to New London, Conn., for his commencement address to the Coast Guard Academy, then to Boston for two fundraisers.
We took off on AF1 Wednesday morning from Andrews Air Force Base and landed in Hartford about an hour later. Soon after, I heard from CBS Radio reporter Mark Knoller, who had not been on that AF1 flight. He had seen reports from journalists at the airport in Hartford that it looked as if Air Force One had aborted its landing and had to come around for a second (successful) try.
News to me! And to the other reporters with me. It was a little bumpy as we were landing, and it took us a long time to actually land, but nothing worth putting in the pool report. Now I’m thinking, oh no, another Michelle Obama near-miss. (The first lady’s plane recently had to abort a landing at Andrews because another plane was too close.) Did we really come close to going down with the leader of the free world? I wondered.
Mark contacted the FAA and they gave him the scoop, which he emailed to me: “FAA confirming a missed approach at 950a. Blames bad visibility. Says AF-1 had to go around and landed safely on 2nd try.”
Soon thereafter, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro gave me an official statement with a little more detail: “AF-1 did a go-round at Bradley Intl Airport this morning because of weather. They circled around and landed safely a few minutes later, at 10:05 a.m. The pilot was in the process of landing but due to weather the pilot decided to circle around and then landed the plane, this is a standard and safe procedure.”
OK, so maybe it wasn’t a near-death experience. But then the ominous, tabloid-worthy news reports came out: “Air Force One Aborts Landing.” National Journal put out the transcript of the conversation with air traffic control. Wow, I thought, I was on that plane and it felt like ... a big fat nothing!
At least I’ll have a good story for my kids.
Now I’m in Boston’s South End, at a big fundraiser for Obama and the Democrats at the Cyclorama. We landed at Logan Airport a little while ago, and I don’t think we had an aborted landing before the real one. But I can’t be quite sure. After all, I didn’t notice the last one.