First lady Michelle Obama was returning from New York Monday when her plane was forced to abort its landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland as a result of an air traffic controller’s mistake. The Boeing 737 came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet when it was told it could not land. Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, was also on board.
Typically, a C-17 military jet requires a five-mile separation behind it because of the airplane’s wake, a turbulence that in extreme cases can cause planes to crash into each other. Obama’s plane was 3.08 miles apart from the jet when it was due to land. A controller at Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Warrenton, Va., however, told the Andrews controller that the two planes were four miles apart.
The FAA manager at Andrews said the TRACON controller exhibited “really bad controller technique.” “Not only did he get them too close, he told the [Andrews controller] that they were farther apart than they were,” he said.
“In the grand scheme of things, events like this happen fairly frequently,” said a federal official who works with the air-traffic control system but is not authorized to speak publicly. “Unfortunately, this one involves a presidential plane.” Nationwide, the number of recorded errors by controllers increased a startling 51 percent last year to 1,869. Potomac recorded 52 controller errors, an increase from 21 recorded in 2009.
It is one thing to slack off on your job if you work in an office or a retail store, but when your job requires you to keep planes from crashing into one another, you should really pay attention. Especially when that plane is carrying the first lady.
Read more at the Washington Post.
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