Tales from the Trail

Iranian leader’s plane shares tarmac with Air Force One

By Margaret Chadbourn
September 26, 2012

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport after a visit to Latin American countries January 14, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 – As President Barack Obama and passengers on Air Force One left for campaign events in Ohio on Wednesday, there was an unusual sight spotted from the presidential aircraft: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plane.

At Joint Base Andrews, which houses the U.S. president’s jet, reporters traveling with Obama spotted a plane marked “Iran Air” parked on the tarmac.

The 89th Airlift Wing, which oversees the runway at Andrews, confirmed the Boeing 747 was indeed Ahmadinejad’s plane, which was used for this week’s United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York before parking at the U.S. military base.

“It is something we afford all heads of state,” said Major Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing. “It’s a courtesy that allows them a place to put their aircraft and provides a little bit of extra security,” she added.

Foreign governments often have access to the base when visiting the United States and are allowed the secure location to park their planes at no cost. It’s easier for the military installation than a commercial airport to accommodate the planes, Lai said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said he did not think Obama had seen the plane.

In his own speech to the U.N. on Monday, Obama said he would do what it takes to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. He said there is a finite amount of time to reach an agreement via diplomacy.

Ahmadinejad, who spoke Wednesday morning in his final address to the U.N., called for a new world order not dominated by Western powers in the service of “the devil.” The Iranian president has said the country’s atomic work is peaceful and aimed at generating power capability.

Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert

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