While approaching Joint Base Andrews from where the Air Force One fleet operates, the C-32A transporting the United States President Donald Trump might have come in close proximity to an unidentified unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The incident was reported on Twitter by several journalists of the press entourage onboard the aircraft. The flight was returning from New Jersey on August 16, 2020, after the president spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club. The near-miss has not been confirmed by any official source yet. “The 89th Airlift Wing is aware of the report, the matter is under review,” an 89th Airlift Wing spokesman told AeroTime. “The 89th Airlift Wing’s C-32A aircraft landed safely without incident.”
@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 C-32A, based on a Boeing 757-200, is a smaller alternative to the modified Boeing 747 known as VC-25A, for when the United States president flies domestic or needs to land in smaller airports. The 89th Airlift Wing, also known as the Presidential Airlift Group (PAG), operates four of them.
Strictly secured in Joint Base Andrews, 17km southeast from Washington, the presidential planes travel by two anywhere they go (the same goes for other presidential aircraft). This measure ensures the president always has a plane at his disposal if one of them were to be grounded. But in 27 years, that never happened.
Blessing for hobbyists, headache for plane safety
The growing availability of leisure drones in the past ten years consequently increased the level of threat they pose to jetliners.
In January 2019, drones caused panic at London Gatwick Airport (LGW), United Kingdom, in the days preceding Christmas. The airport was closed for three days, creating a financial loss of several millions of pounds.
In this context, armies, as well as commercial operators, have been participating in a full-fledged arms race against UAVs.