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Political Briefing / WASHINGTON, D.C.

Tapes show pilot did cite emergency

August 15, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

Control-tower tapes show that the pilot of Barack Obama's campaign plane told air traffic controllers he had an emergency when he made an unscheduled landing in St. Louis last month, ABC News reported.

At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration and Midwest Airlines, owner of the MD-80 charter airliner, said there was no emergency.

ABC reported that tower tapes it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the pilot, who was having trouble controlling the pitch of the plane, told an FAA air traffic controller: "At this time we would like to declare an emergency and also have [crash equipment] standing by in St. Louis."

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown did not dispute the network's account. She said news media were told minutes after the incident that there had been no emergency because that was the initial information the agency had received from air traffic control.

"Information we get in real time is preliminary and may be subject to change when we get a fuller account of what happened," Brown said.

She noted that declaring an emergency gives the aircraft priority in landing.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, said it has found no evidence of missing parts or tampering.

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