The shadow of Air Force One


Yesterday’s visit by President Barack Obama was certainly a pain in the neck for anyone flying in and out of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

Here’s a graphical portrayal of what a half-hour of air-traffic-control chatter is like in the half hour before Air Force One arrived.


And here’s what it looked like in the half hour after Air Force One entered the airspace.


Why? Because the airport shut down for more than a half hour. Landing planes were told to turn off onto a taxiway and turn off their engines. And there they sat until the president was out of the area, and on his way to the University of Minnesota.

This segment of ‘chatter’ between 3 and 3:30 pretty well indicates when things got back to normal, aside from the sorting out of backed-up flights arriving and departing.


Here’s what it sounded like between Air Force One’s pilot and controllers (I’ve “telescoped” the audio to eliminate dead air). At one point, the giant plane was blocked by one of the commercial jets that was “frozen” on the airport property.

(h/t: Live ATC)

(Photo: President Obama returns to Andrews Air Force base after flying from Minneapolis on Saturday night.)

  • That’s interesting and all, but what’s the context? I assume that happens any time any president has traveled anywhere, right? Or are those newer restrictions? Is there a less intensive way for the president to travel?

  • Lori Wedeking

    One time when President Clinton visited here, I got “trapped” in downtown Minneapolis. We could not move, simply had to wait along the sidewalk before walking to our usual buses for going home. President Clinton is somewhat known for running late and we waited a long, long time. I sat down along the curb and the police told me I couldn’t sit. I wouldn’t have minded at all standing in respect for the President, but didn’t understand why police directed me to stand and wait for 30 minutes for the President to pass by on his way to the airport.

    A high profile visitor is always an “inconvenience.”

  • Sam

    Am I alone in thinking that it would be a pretty cool day in an air traffic controller’s professional life when he gets to be the guy who says “Air Force One, Minneapolis tower, cleared to land” into the radio? Or is that old hat for most of these folks?

  • Bob Collins

    You can hear the difference in the voice when they’re talking to Air Force One. But, perhaps, what they should say is, “Air Force One, Minneapolis Approach, just do whatever you want because you know we’re going to let you.”

  • Sue

    Love Air Force One-no matter who is President. This story makes me recall the beautiful October day a few years ago when Air Force One was approaching and the chaperoning fighter jets were flying above Stillwater-at a local pumkin patch I told my brother and sister-in-law to look at that jet because you will see that it is armed. As we stopped to look we were shocked to see the jet fire the warning flares which shot out a ways and then turned down and burned out. We probably will never see that again! It was for that small aircraft flying around the Lake Elmo airport.I wonder what the protocal was for that pilot after they got him to land??

  • kwatt

    Is this something that is available live as the plane comes in?

  • Bob Collins