Melania Trump was on a plane that had to turn around to make an emergency landing due to smoke in the cockpit, ABC News is reporting.
The First Lady was on her way to Philadelphia to visit Thomas Jefferson University Hospital when the aircraft that she was a passenger on suffered some sort of malfunction. A Fox News reporter who was on-board with Mrs. Trump said that they noticed “a thin haze of smoke and smell [of] something burning.”
About ten minutes later, the smell was so strong that Secret Service agents and other passengers had to hold towels over their noses, and the aircraft was forced to turn around. The aircraft landed safely at Joint Base Andrews, according to Fox News.
Once the plane and its passengers were on the ground safely, the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, issued a statement saying that the smell was from “a malfunctioning [communications] unit.”
Mrs. Trump was on board a Boeing VC-35A, which is a 757 that has been retrofitted with military technology. The particular aircraft that Mrs. Trump was on was built in 1998.
First Lady's aircraft safely on the ground back at Andrews. No rush to get off the plane after smoke and burning smell detected. Problem developed about 10 minutes after take-off en route Philadelphia for @FLOTUS hospital remarks. Press and officials calmly led off the tarmac. pic.twitter.com/PFX11v5xJg— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 17, 2018
Though emblazoned with robin’s-egg blue paint and the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” much like Air Force One, the craft that Mrs. Trump was using was not that aircraft. Officially, any aircraft with the president on-board is given the handle Air Force One. Two specific planes — officially known by their tail numbers 28000 and 29000 — are the planes on which the president generally flies. Those two craft are colloquially referred to as Air Force One, and neither of these craft was involved in today’s incident.
Mrs. Trump was headed to Philadelphia to campaign for her “Be Best” initiative, as well as to highlight the opioid epidemic. She was placed on a different aircraft, and was able to complete her flight without incident.
This is not the first time that a presidential aircraft has suffered mechanical problems. As CBS News reported at the time, back in 2006 a mechanical problem grounded one of the two official Air Force One aircraft while it was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Former President George W. Bush was in the country for the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi. Bush later completed the next leg of his Asia tour, to Indonesia, on a backup aircraft.
Neither the White House nor the Air Force specified what the precise issue was at the time. The aircraft was repaired before Bush made the much-longer journey from Indonesia to Honolulu.