Air Force One remained at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport while President Trump flew to North Carolina on Marine One.
Pres. Donald Trump made a short visit to Greenville on Monday, August 24 as part of a plan to travel to the Mills River area of North Carolina. The President and his entourage flew into GSP airport early Monday morning then promptly flew Marine One to Asheville. Once in North Carolina he traveled by limousine to the Mills River plant. The President along with his daughter, Ivanka, and USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue toured the Flavor First Growers and Packers in Mills River, North Carolina. Flavor First partners with Baptists on Missions to build the Farmers to Families Food Boxes. As he toured the plant, he was able to observe how the boxes were packaged and then placed in refrigerated trucks for delivery to needy families around the country. According to a press release from the White House the program is sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture.
Air Force One was staged at the far end of GSP’s flightline. Cerulean Air, which is located at the south end of the airport property, was listed on the press release as providing facilities for the short visit.
The amount of preparation that goes into a Presidential visit is extraordinary. Upon arrival, the press was ushered into a reserved press area on a flatbed trailer complete with electronic hookups for cameras and power supplies. National networks and local news reporters were provided space on the raised platform.
With an excellent view of the surrounding areas we were able to take in a remarkable scene. The size of the aircraft and the number of support vehicles and staff were hugely impressive. There were approximately 25 different vehicles stationed around the aircraft. Highway Patrol cars, Sheriff’s Deputies, GSP security, and of course Secret Service agents were everywhere.
The plan was to fly the President from Greenville to Mills River on Marine One and then board limos for the tour. Three Osprey aircraft were dispatched to shuttle the limousines and emergency vehicles to the Asheville airport.
As the Ospreys returned to Greenville, several staff members disembarked and went straight to the back of Air Force One as the Presidents plane was preparing for take off. Then, two Marine One helicopters landed on the deserted flightline. Several staff members exited the first aircraft and went straight to Air Force One. The President disembarked from the helicopter and walked toward the plane. With a Marine standing guard at the front of the helicopter, the President gave a sharp salute and waved to the crowd as he and Ivanka made their way toward the aircraft. Just before the President moved from Marine One toward Air Force One, security guards with dogs scanned the flightline and the grassy areas. Patrol cars drove up and down the flightline and of course all incoming and outgoing flights were delayed, and the airport was closed down completely.
As the President walked slowly, he waved at the crowd of approximately 200 people that were in a cordoned off area in front of our press platform. He waved several times to the cheers and chants of four more years. As he was walking to the aircraft, security personnel were in high alert mode. Everybody’s eyes were scanning the surrounding areas and heavily armed military style fire teams kept watch with some mean looking machine guns.
It seemed like there was two of everything. Two identical presidential limousines, two Marine One helicopters, and two emergency vehicles with the capability of performing just about any type of medical procedure that might be required for the President.
As the President boarded the aircraft he stopped at the top of the stairs, turned, and waved. He disappeared inside for a few minutes and came back, waved again and gave us the thumbs up.
What an experience! It was my first Presidential event covered as a newspaper publisher. I’ll be admitting my age, but I have seen two other presidents. In 1959 a block from my house, I stood on the corner of Ward Street and the Boulevard of the Allies as President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev passed by in an open convertible. He was in Pittsburgh to visit the steel mills and later visited the UN in New York. Three years later, I attended a campaign rally for President John Kennedy.
What an honor!■