View Full Version : Is Bush Administration Trying to Kill White House Press Corps?

Iron City
13th Feb 2002, 19:11
Article in Washington Post yesterday on the aircraft operators the White House charters as the press planes for Presidential trips.

link is:. .<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60640-2002Feb11.html" target="_blank">http://www.washingtonpost.c om/wp-dyn/articles/A60640-2002Feb11.html</a>

The White House Charter Fright

By Dana Milbank

. .Is the Bush administration trying to kill the White House press corps?

No doubt such an action would be politically popular. But members of the press corps, not surprisingly, view this possibility in a different light. Hence the concern over what seems increasingly to be a potential murder weapon: the dreaded press charter.

While President Bush travels the land aboard Air Force One with a small, rotating band of reporters, the majority of correspondents chase him on planes named "Sport Hawk" or "Vacation Express" or "Miami Air" or "TransMeridian." The White House travel office arranges such transportation for the journalists, whose employers pay the tab. The stated reason is money: Charter carriers are often cheaper.

But at what cost? Consider Air Transat, the Canadian charter company that flew the White House press corps to Quebec and to five European countries. Soon after, an Air Transat plane ran out of fuel in both engines on a flight over the Atlantic and had to make an emergency landing in the Azores. It later emerged that the captain had served time in prison two decades earlier for transporting drugs, and there were reports that the wrong engine had been put on the plane and the pilot did not follow correct procedures in flight.

Air Transat has since been banned from carrying the press corps. But last weekend, the travel office booked the press on Miami Air International, whose 727s were the subject of fear and loathing during Bush's presidential campaign. One of its aircraft once caught fire; others routinely leaked fluid or had internal components fall in the cabin during flight. During the campaign, Bush switched to a newer plane from another carrier. But Miami Air has returned to fly the White House press corps -- yesterday, on a 26-year-old plane owned by DB Air Ltd.

Of course, major airlines have their scares, too. But they tend to have newer planes and more expert crews; some pilots who fly the presidential aircraft say they wouldn't risk a trip on the charters. Indeed, a check of the Federal Aviation Administration's Web site for incidents involving the charters regularly booked by the White House travel office finds some disconcerting phrases:

"Oxygen masks were deployed . . . the crew saw something fly from the aircraft . . . the 1st officer heard a thud . . . scraped the left wing tip on the runway on landing . . . crew was removed from flying status . . . the airplane stalled and rolled into the ground immediately after takeoff . . . ice contamination on the airplane's wings . . . the tail skid made marks about 10 feet short of the runway . . . the crew was grounded by the co. chief pilot . . . no. 2 engine fire indication came on . . . exited past the end of the runway, made a left turn, and stopped in mud."

Some incidents have involved campaign press charters: A plane's wing was struck by a bus "carrying twenty passengers from the White House press corps," or a plane's "left main landing gear left taxiway pavement and got stuck in turf." Far more common are the double-hop landings, the "two-minutes-to-landing" warnings that become a nail-biting 15 minutes or the general adventure of flying on planes flown by "Pace Airlines" or "North American" or "Ryan International."

White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said the administration is not culpable in the attempted murder of the press corps; previous administrations had their own dubious charters. The travel office solicits bids from a number of airlines and charter companies -- she did not know which ones -- and then sends a list of bids to the White House Correspondents' Association, which makes the choice. "It's ultimately a decision the correspondents' association makes," she said.

But members of the association said they feel pressure from the White House to select cheap bidders -- in part because the government pays for a number of stenographers and aides who travel on the plane. And both parties blame the television networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox. Because they fly large crews on the press charters, their costs are the highest. That makes the likes of Vacation Express particularly attractive. Unless you figure in the life insurance payouts.

On the other hand, even Air Force One has its hazards. In 1996, the 747 was rocked by a huge air pocket while flying through a thunderstorm over Texas -- sending passengers flying and dishes shattering. "A character builder," President Bill Clinton said.

On Friday night, a winter storm in the mountains forced the Miami Air press charter to divert to Idaho Falls, Idaho, instead of Jackson Hole, Wyo. But Air Force One, this time a 757, pressed on for what passengers described as a "dramatically turbulent" flight that tossed the plane "up, down and sideways, seemingly simultaneously."

The intrepid White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., who was out of his seat and carrying a hot drink when the turbulence hit, staggered and gripped a wall to hold himself up. A Secret Service agent, according to a Bloomberg News reporter on the plane, tried to get Card to take the nearest empty seat -- three rows away in the press section. But Card took one look at the reporters and decided to take his chances where he was.

[ 13 February 2002: Message edited by: Iron City ]</p>

Few Cloudy
13th Feb 2002, 22:07
My God!! That'll give the boys something to write home about, "Our giant landing wheel came within inches of a giant runway radar just before we ran out of fuel in both engines - or something".

Ignition Override
14th Feb 2002, 06:06
And if the press ever wondered what caused US airline deregulation (with explosive growth leading to so many more operators who are not really "supervised"), and the present situation, not just the Republicans are to blame.

Didn't Jimmy Carter enact the change in '78, with much help and pressure from Democrats such as powerful Senator Teddy Kennedy, wanting different service to Hyannisport, MA, under advisement of their "airline guru" (more like mercenary jackass), Professor Alfred Kahn, who just incidentally, was allegedly already offered much stock and/or a seat on the board with fledgling airline New York Air...? Read Professor Kahn's arguements for deregulation sometime.

As much as the US press has neglected to focus much (until the Valuejet crash) attention on the effects which deregulation has had, directly and indirectly on airline safety (with plenty of evidence offered), spending on maintenance, scab operations during strikes etc, or on the lack of realistic crewmember duty/rest regulations etc, I find their many complaints and anxieties quite ironic.

What an unfortunate situation that Europeans/Uk/Irish airlines are going through this quagmire.

[ 14 February 2002: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]</p>

Iron City
14th Feb 2002, 20:23
New York Air- that brings back checkered memories of being strung along until the last competitor's flight (Eastern Shuttle)left then everything closed for the night, not so much as a sorry.

ValuJet is still in the air under another name, Airtran I believe.

Deregulation has had it's benefits and drawbacks, and I'm not sure that the positives and negatives don't balance out.

How (or does) President Blair get the press corps there to cover his media opportunities? If he really hates them maybe by train, much more dangerous than by air.

14th Feb 2002, 20:38
Aren't there enough bloody reporters in the world that we (US taxpayers) wouldn't need to fly a couple plane loads of them around where ever Georgy goes? If they want to cover a story, why don't they fly themselves on their own dime on their airline of choice!

15th Feb 2002, 00:19
The journalist really needn't worry. The devil protects his own and all those dead journalists arriving at once would turn hell into....well hell for the Devil. . .No they're perfectly safe. In fact are there any really old propliners they could give them. Something prone to engine fires, think of the breathless prose that would generate!