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President’s Jet, Us Airways Plane Flew Too Close Together

Fri., Jan. 30, 1998

Air Force One flew too close to a commercial flight this week when flying President Clinton out of Washington - but not the plane the FAA originally reported was too close.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday a review of radar tapes showed that the agency erroneously had reported the president’s plane flew too close to a Delta airliner Wednesday when leaving for Illinois.

But the FAA review disclosed that the required distance wasn’t kept between Air Force One and a US Airways craft.

In the area around Washington National Airport and nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Air Force One’s home airport, planes are required to stay at least three nautical miles (3.45 miles) apart horizontally and 1,000 feet vertically.

A Wednesday afternoon report said the president’s plane and a Delta jet had come within 2.9 miles of each other, but a later study of the radar data showed that the planes had stayed the legal distance apart.

Thursday, the FAA said the same study revealed Clinton’s plane had come within 2.4 nautical miles (2.6 miles) horizontally and 900 feet vertically of a US Airways Boeing 737.

At the time, 9:16 a.m., Air Force One was west of National Airport heading west and climbing. The Delta aircraft also was west of National, headed east to land, and the US Airways flight was southwest of the airport, headed north for entry into the landing sequence, the FAA said.

The agency said the US Airways plane was at 8,500 feet and descending. Air Force One was at 7,500 feet and climbing but descended to 7,000 feet at the direction of an air traffic controller.

The planes were taking off or approaching the airport, a situation in which they usually fly at 200 mph or less.


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