Technical issue forces Kamala Harris plane to turn around

Joseph M. Arseneau/Shutterstock

The Boeing C-32, designated as Air Force Two for the transportation of US Vice-President Kamala Harris, was forced to turn around on June 6, 2021.

The plane had just taken off from Andrews Joint Base near Washington DC and was on its way to Guatemala for the first international trip of the vice-president. But shortly after takeoff, a technical problem was detected. A reporter on board said a strange noise was heard coming from the undercarriage.

The flight safely landed back at Andrews Joint Base. “We all said a little prayer but we’re fine,” Harris told journalists. After two hours, the occupants embarked on the backup C-32, which successfully flew to Guatemala.

The C-32 is a modified Boeing 757. It is used mainly for the transportation of the US Vice-President. It can also be used by the President for domestic flights, or when it needs to land in smaller airports that could not house the VC-25A, the heavily modified Boeing 747 usually employed as Air Force One.

Coincidentally, this incident comes a week after the US Department of Defense abandoned the idea to replace the C-32 fleet. In 2019, the US Air Force and Navy launched an evaluation of their airborne command aircraft as well as their VIP transportation fleet. 

In its 2022 budget estimate published in May 2021, the Pentagon said that after an analysis of alternatives, the C-32 Executive Transport Recapitalization program “concluded in September 2020 with no impact or actions for the C-32 fleet.”

The same evaluation, however, found that the E-4B Nightwatch, also known as the National Operations Airborne Center, would need replacement. The fleet of militarized Boeing 747-200 “faces capability gaps, diminishing manufacturing sources, increased maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence as it approaches the end of its serviceable life.”


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