Clouds with Drizzling Rain Prevented “Marine One” From Flying Trump To U.S. cemetery near Paris

President Donald Trump salutes service members as he exits Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 26, 2017. Trump departed for Philadelphia to address the Congressional Grand Old Party Retreat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mariah Haddenham)

Trump cancels visit to US cemetery in France because of bad weather.

On Saturday Nov. 10, 2018, President Trump was scheduled to travel to Belleau Wood, 55 miles northeast of Paris, as part of the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.

Belleau Wood is where the US troops had their breakthrough battle by stopping a German push for Paris shortly after entering the war in 1917.

“The battle of Belleau Wood proved America’s mettle to allies and foes alike, and by the time the war ended U.S. forces were at least an equal to any of the other major armies, which were exhausted and depleted. The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at Belleau contains the graves of 2,289 servicemen and commemorates 1,060 others who fell at Bealleau Wood,” Metro reported.

Although it had been planned for months, the trip was canceled because, according to the White House, bad weather “grounded” his helicopter, “considered ill-equipped to make the short journey because of the clouds and drizzle”.

The cancellation drew much criticism: someone said the VH-3 and VH-60 flown by the U.S. Marine Corps HMX-1 (Marine Helicopter Squadron One) should be able to fly in rain and moderate bad weather; others say the president should have had a back-up plan that foresaw a different way to travel to Aisne-Marne regardless of the weather.

According to the Washington Post, the Secret Service determines when it’s safe to fly “Marine One“: when President of the U.S. travels aboard the VH-3D or any other chopper operated by HMX-1, the helicopter uses the radio callsign “Marine One” by which the aircraft is known). Paris was covered in clouds with drizzling rain through most of Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama, boards Marine One after arriving at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, Charlotte Douglas Intl. Airport, June 6, 2013, where he greeted members of the 145th Airlift Wing. The President traveled to Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C. to deliver remarks and see firsthand the school’s cutting edge technology and digital learning curriculum as part of his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.” (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Patricia Findley/Released)

President Trump was probably supposed to travel in one of the “White Tops” (VH-3Ds and VH-60Ns) that fly the President and accompanying VIPs at home and abroad as part of the Executive Flight Detachment. Usually, at least two or three “Green Tops” Ospreys accompany “Marine One”. The tilt-rotor aircraft fly also the Secret Service agents that follow “Marine One” and take care of its valuable passengers in case the helicopter goes down due to a failure.

The helicopters, based at Quantico, Virginia, south of Washington DC but often operating out of an alert facility at Naval Support Facility Anacostia, in DC, much closer to the White House than Quantico, are transferred to the place where POTUS will stay, ahead of his visit, in C-17 cargo aircraft.

Screenshot from an NBC video showing one of the VH-3D being loaded into a C-17.

Even though some of the HMX-1 helicopters, especially the legendary VH-3Ds are quite old, they have been regularly upgraded and they are equipped with cutting edge avionics, communication system and self-defenses. We don’t know at what time the White House and Secret Services staff canceled the trip so we can’t be sure of the real (and forecasted) weather conditions along the route. Surely, regardless to whether the aircraft is carrying the POTUS, a VIP or someone else, weather conditions including fog, rain, low ceiling and wind, along with the terrain characteristics, airspaces, etc. must be taken into proper consideration when planning a low altitude trip. And they may lead to cancellations.

Here below you can find an interesting thread that provides some insights into the way POTUS trips are planned. Indeed, there should always be a backup plan for the world’s most important Head of State.

H/T to our close friend @CivMilAir for the heads up!

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.