At least two reporters traveling on Air Force One on Sunday say the presidential plane had a near miss with what appeared to be a drone.
“Multiple people on AF1 saw what appeared to be a drone just below the plane as we were descending toward Joint Base Andrews,” Jennifer Jacobs, senior White House reporter for Bloomberg News, wrote on Twitter. “We came very close to hitting it, per @SebastianAFP, who had a window seat.”
Multiple people on AF1 saw what appeared to be a drone just below the plane as we were descending toward Joint Base Andrews.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 16, 2020
“@realDonaldTrump just landed at Andrews on AF1,” tweeted Sebastian Smith, a reporter with Agence France Presse. “Shortly before, while descending, we flew right over a small object, remarkably close to the president’s plane. Resembled a drone though I’m no expert.”
@realDonaldTrump just landed at Andrews on AF1. Shortly before, while descending,we flew right over a small object, remarkably close to the president’s plane. Resembled a drone though I’m no expert. pic.twitter.com/roDFgpp4XH
— Sebastian Smith (@SebastianAFP) August 16, 2020
“The fact that a drone can come so close to the world’s highest-profile and most heavily monitored and defended variant of a commercial aircraft is troubling for obvious reasons. As we have said for many years, one of the biggest threats posed by lower-end drones is to VVIPs, and especially when they are on the move,” wrote TheDrive.com, which first reported the incident.
Trump was on board Air Force One as it landed at Andrews Air Force base on Sunday evening. The president was returning from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster New Jersey when the reported near-collision happened.
Courtney Subramanian, White House correspondent for USA Today, also tweeted about the incident. “Co-pooler Sebastian Smith spotted an object that appeared to be a drone beneath AF1 as we landed,” she wrote in a pool report.
Regulations governing unmanned flying objects have been enacted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so drones can be tracked. The FAA also lays out what drone operators can do near airports.
“Drone operators should avoid flying near airports because it is difficult for manned aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that drone operators must avoid manned aircraft and are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment,” the Federal Aviation Administration says. “For flight near airports in controlled airspace, drone operators must receive an airspace authorization prior to operation. Airspace authorizations come with altitude limitations and may include other operational provisions.”
The president’s plane at the time (any plane the president is on is designated Air Force One) was a C-32A, based on a Boeing 757-200, a smaller alternative to the modified Boeing 747 known as VC-25A for use on short domestic flights or when landing at smaller airports.
Drones have been used to menace airports before. In 2018, drone operators flew near Gatwick Airport in London, causing flights to be suspended for 30 hours, grounding some 140,000 passengers.
“The police investigation has centred on 129 separate sightings of drone activity, 109 of these from credible witnesses used to working in a complex airport environment including a pilot, airport workers and airport police,” local police said at the time. “The incident was not deemed terror-related and there is no evidence to suggest it was either state-sponsored, campaign or interest-group led. No further arrests have been made.”
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