Air Force One Misses an Approach

October 4, 2012 by Bruce Landsberg

Remember when the New York Times’ slogan was, “All the news that’s fit to print?”

Today’s media has changed that to, “All the news that fits, we print…or something.”

CNN and a number of other outlets breathlessly announced last week, “Air Force One, flying President Barack Obama to a campaign event, aborted an initial landing attempt in Ohio on Wednesday due to weather conditions. The jumbo jet experienced turbulence on approach to Toledo and was within sight of the runway when the pilot pulled the plane up and circled the airport, according to reporters on board….”

At this point the weather did not appear to be particularly bad, but there are few details.

After the very routine missed approach (or at least routine to any pilot with more than a few IFR hours), the world’s largest GA aircraft landed safely (well, OK—it’s technically paid for by the taxpayers but functions exactly as any GA aircraft: one gets to go direct, with passengers of your choosing, and largely without TSA interference), the campaign stop was saved, and the world is better informed. So as not to be partisan, it was also reported that Ann Romney’s charter flight suffered an electrical problem, and her aircraft had to stop in Denver. There are worse places, and I’ve personally had an unplanned maintenance stop in several of them.

Wonder what the reaction would be if a similar amount of attention were paid to automotive miscues:

“The Mom-van with three kids aboard missed the exit to Flabob Avenue but ultimately arrived safely. The children were slightly late for soccer and tee-ball, but the teams ultimately prevailed, despite substitute referees.”

“George K. Slackjaw narrowly escaped doom while changing a flat tire on East Street undeterred by heavy traffic and the occasional distraction from muggers. With deft wielding of a tire iron, George was able to continue safely to his destination.”

Ad nauseum.

By now you’ve figured out that bad news sells, and success in informing the community is, at least for some outlets, secondary to business success. Then there’s the sheer volume of dead air or electrons that have to be filled which leads to all sorts of mischief and filler.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that people and media still find aviation remarkable, except the airline experience, which is somewhat less so. Less than one-third of one percent of the eligible population is certificated to fly, and you know how folks react when we casually let it drop that we fly ourselves.

I’ve already had some fun with neighbors explaining that missed approaches and occasional mechanical malfunctions are not usually life threatening and are about on par with missing an exit or changing a tire. Now, where did I put that tire iron?


Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Joe Bltzflx

    Yesterday, while harvesting apples, I fell off my ladder. Did you know that as many people are killed falling off ladders as in airplane accidents? It’s true. Look it up.

    I am puzzled that my fall did not make national news. Also, shouldn’t there be an FLA (Federal Ladder Administration) and a NLSB (National Ladder Safety Board)? Why isn’t my ladder being held in quarantine until the two-year accident investigation is completed? And where is the Lall report?

    Ah, life’s little mysteries.

  • Flying Donald

    The headlines would have been a lot worse had the pilots not exercised good judgment and gone missed. Indeed, the pressure to land when you’re carrying a VIP is likely to foster bad judgment in those not properly disciplined. Carrying a VIP could well have been a big factor in the 2010 crash that killed the Polish president and a lot of his cabinet, as well as the 2004 crash of the charter that was en route to collect George HW Bush. (I forget the details on the latter but recall the crew executed a “short cut” of some kind, to make up time.)

    In all, then, the press should be taken to task for making a positive sound like a negative, and Mr Obama should buy the pilots dinner as a reward. It must be bally hard to act as PIC when you’ve got the President riding in the back. Good for them.

  • Steve Crum

    As a CFII/MEI who works in a Toledo TV station, I was eagerly summoned to the newsroom to review a recording of the ATC communications. Air Force One calmly transmitted “Missed Approach” and were calmly instructed to fly the published missed approach. At that point he recording was stopped and I was asked what that was and how it could happen.The videographer who was present for the arrival was there so I asked about weather conditions. He said he could see Air Force One in and out of clouds and the clouds were very low and visibility was poor. I then explained why pilots call a missed approach and added that I had personally practiced 5 of them the preceding week. They were then excited about the “published missed approach”. I listened to the rest of the recording and heard “Air Force One 2,000 climbing 3,000. They were then issued a heading for vectors to the GPS 25 at Toledo Express (the ILS 25 was notamed out of service). I pulled the IAP from the AOPA website and revealed the mysterious “Published Missed Approach”- Climb to 3000 direct ATVIY and hold. The weather cleared and the 2nd approach was uneventful. I told them none of that was at all unusual, happens all the time, but it made the news anyway.

  • Sal Lagonia

    It depends on why I went missed. If caused by the weather being below minimums, it’s not going to get better on another approach so it’s on to the alternate. If it was something other than that – which could be corrected on the next try – I would give it one more attempt.

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  • Gary Boehm

    Anyone know how I can get in touch with Steve Crum directly?