ST. LOUIS — The airplane carrying Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made a safe, unscheduled and precautionary landing in St. Louis on Monday after a maintenance issue arose en route from Chicago to Charlotte, N.C.
The plane, an MD-80 Midwest charter, experienced a problem maintaining the proper pitch, or control over keeping the nose at the proper angle, as it was taking off from Chicago, the pilot said. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the plane had a flight control problem.
About an hour after taking off from Chicago, Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass came to the back of the plane to inform the press of a “minor, little problem with the airplane” and said the plane would make a precautionary landing in St. Louis.
Obama was sitting in the front of the plane reading the paper.
Minutes later the first officer came on the overhead speaker and provided more details.
“We detected a little bit of controllability issue in terms of our ability to control the aircraft in the pitch, which is the nose up and nose down mode,” announced the pilot, a first officer whose name was not released in accordance with Midwest policy.
“The autopilot and the aircraft are just fine. As we descended, whatever was inhibiting our ability has now been rectified. However, just for safety purposes we are going to be stopping in St. Louis and making sure that there’s nothing binding our controls. We have full authority of the aircraft. We will not need to brace. It will be a normal landing,” he said.
The landing at 9:51 a.m., was, in fact, normal.
A mechanic was traveling on the plane at the time, and was inspecting the problem on the ground in St. Louis.
Obama, his staff, the Secret Service entourage and the press sat on the plane as it was being checked out. Lambert Airport spokesman Jeff Lea said the airplane had taxied to Signature Flight Support, a facility which handles private jets.