Intruder got into official plane at Joint Base Andrews; the day before Biden set to fly

A Secret Service agent stands watch as Air Force One, carrying President Barack Obama and his family in 2015. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Froeber

Tara Copp

McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — An intruder breached security at Joint Base Andrews, where presidential planes are kept, and got inside one of the aircraft used to transport the nation’s elected leaders, top government officials and first ladies, the base confirmed Friday.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations detained and interviewed the unidentified man on Thursday, after he drove past security personnel and onto Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

“The individual gained unauthorized access to the flightline and entered a C-40 aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing,” Joint Base Andrews said in a statement. “Joint Base Andrews Security Forces responded, detained and interviewed the individual. U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations assisted with the interview.”

“He was booked by OSI and given a federal summons for trespassing. He was turned over to local law enforcement, given that he had two outstanding warrants,” the base statement said. “The man was unarmed and did not harm any personnel and there is no indication that the individual has any links to extremist groups.”

The C-40 is the Air Force equivalent of a 737, painted in blue and white, and can be used to transport government officials, including the vice president and the first lady.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the incursion had prompted the Air Force to request that its inspector general investigate how Air Force personnel are securing access to their bases, flight line and aircraft, not only at Andrews but at installations worldwide.

“Everybody is taking this very seriously,” Kirby said at a media briefing.

The Air Force also “adjusted some of their security protocols at Andrews this morning,” he said, declining to provide specifics for security reasons.

The incident occurred a day before President Joe Biden was scheduled to depart from Andrews for Delaware, and amid heightened security around Washington following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Thousands of National Guard members remain in the capital due to intelligence reports of potential risk for violence at upcoming protests.

The White House referred all questions to the Air Force.

Former first ladies Michelle Obama and Melania Trump have flown on C-40 aircraft in recent years, and one was used to bring home Americans held hostage in North Korea.

The sprawling base is home to the presidential planes, which are designated Air Force One when the president is on board, and dozens of additional military executive transport aircraft used to fly other government officials.

Other aircraft stationed at Andrews include F-16 fighter jets, large C-17 cargo planes that ferry Secret Service motorcade vehicles and a squadron of dark blue and white Air Force UH-1N Huey helicopters.

One of those Hueys was shot at over Virginia last August, injuring the pilot. The FBI has not identified a suspect in that case, which remains under investigation, the FBI Washington Field Office told McClatchy this week.

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(McClatchy White House reporter Michael Wilner contributed to this report.)

©2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit at mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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