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Plane, Reagan Helicopter Reported in Near Collision

September 28, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — A twin-engine plane came within several hundred feet of President Reagan's helicopter because of communication problems at an air traffic control tower, it was reported today.

The close call came last Monday near the Statue of Liberty as Reagan was flying to Air Force One at Newark (N.J.) International Airport after addressing the United Nations, the New York Post reported.

Reagan's helicopter was at an altitude of about 500 feet either over Newark Bay or the New Jersey Turnpike when the private Beechcraft trying to land came within several hundred feet, the paper said.

"The airplane is almost on top of us!" the President's Marine pilot desperately tried to tell the control tower, according to an unidentified source.

But controllers could not hear the pilot because they weren't monitoring the right frequency. The pilot finally reached the tower on a regular, unsecured frequency, the source said.

A White House spokesman told the newspaper that the incident involved a helicopter carrying Secret Service and White House staff, not Reagan, and that the President "was not in any danger."

When Reagan flew to California last month for his summer vacation, a small private plane strayed into restricted airspace and came within 150 feet of his military helicopter. In that case, the air traffic control system worked and the President's pilot was alerted to take evasive action.

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