Michelle Obama's jet aborts landing

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The Independent US

US air traffic controllers directed a plane carrying First Lady Michelle Obama to abort a landing at Andrews Air Force Base because it was too close to a military cargo jet, in yet another embarrassment for the Federal Aviation Administration.

While there apparently was little risk to Mrs Obama, it puts the FAA back into the spotlight after nine air traffic controllers and supervisors were suspended in recent weeks, including five for sleeping on the job.

Earlier this week, a controller at a regional radar facility near Cleveland was suspended for watching a film when he was supposed to be monitoring air traffic. The head of the US air traffic system resigned last week.

This latest incident occurred on Monday when a Boeing 737 belonging to the Air National Guard, one of several guard planes used by the White House, came within about three miles of a C-17 cargo jet as the planes approached Andrews. The FAA requires a minimum gap of five miles between two planes when the lead plane is as big as the 200-tonne cargo jet, to avoid dangerous wake turbulence to the trailing aircraft.

The FAA is investigating the incident as a possible error by controllers at a regional radar facility in Warrenton, Virginia, that handles approaches and departures for several airports, including Andrews, where the President's aircraft, Air Force One, is maintained. The FAA said in a statement that "the aircraft were never in any danger".