First lady's aborted landing classified as serious error

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a reception commemorating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day and Women's History Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 8, 2011. AP Photo

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a reception commemorating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day and Women's History Month in the East Room of the White House in Washington March 8, 2011.
AP Photo
An investigation probing the aborted landing of an Air National Guard plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama earlier this week has been given the Federal Aviation Administration's most serious classification for operational errors, CBS News confirmed Wednesday.

The incident, in which the plane carrying the first lady had to perform what officials described Tuesday as a routine "go around" because it was too close to a 200-ton military cargo plane in front of it, has prompted two investigations, one by the FAA and another by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Feds probe close call of first lady's plane
First lady's close call points to controller error
Video: First lady's plane in close call

No one was harmed in the incident, which took place early Monday evening near Joint Base Andrews outside the capital.

An apparent mistake by a controller at a regional air traffic facility allowed the first lady's plane, a military version of a Boeing 737, to get within three miles of the larger cargo jet, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reported. With FAA rules requiring planes to be separated by five miles, three miles is technically too close.

"Can we slow down?" a controller said during the incident in a flight recording obtained by CBS News.

(Listen at left)

An FAA official confirmed to CBS News that the incident has been classified as a so-called "Category A" operational error, the most serious of three classifications.

"There is an assumption that wake turbulence is there, whether or not anyone experiences it," the official said because there was a "non-heavy (the Boeing 737 plane carrying the first lady) behind a heavy (the cargo plane)."

Also Wednesday, the FAA announced that planes carrying the first lady and the vice president will now be required, "where possible," to receive the same level of monitoring by a supervisor as when Air Force One flies the president around the country.

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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