Close Encounter


It was a beautiful clear day for my VFR flight in a DiamondStar DA40. Approximately 15 minutes into the flight, level at 7500 feet and still monitoring CTAF and Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Approach simultaneously, one of my passengers spotted an airliner in the distance at my 10 oclock position. We were at what appeared to be similar altitudes; the traffic was converging from my left. My heading was northerly; I estimated his as easterly.

Ft. Wayne Approach was not calling me as traffic to this aircraft, nor had they pointed him out to me. We continued on converging courses until we were an estimated five miles apart.

At this point, it became obvious this was a Boeing 747, as evidenced by the distinctive “hump.” As we closed on the 747, I began a 1500-fpm descent down to 5500 msl; the 747 didnt change course or altitude. The ATC frequency was still quiet.

Soon, we were close enough to see the blue/white coloring and read “United States of America” on its fuselage. Something close to panic set in when I realized I was mile from Air Force One and passing underneath this heavily guarded airplane.

I immediately switched to 121.5 MHz and awaited interception by God knows what type of military aircraft, followed by a long afternoon of Secret Service questioning. My passengers, two co-workers, were very excited about being this close, wondering aloud if this was legal and how could we get this close. They didnt know I was thinking that we were in serious trouble. I was barely listening to them as I scanned for other, escorting traffic and listened for instructions…but nothing came.

Within a minute of the 747 passing off my right, I called Ft. Wayne Approach with my position and altitude, and requested flight following to my destination. At no point was a word of the encounter ever uttered on the frequency by Fort Wayne or other facilities with whom I spoke before I landed at my destination.

I was really expecting to have somebody waiting for me in Lansing when I arrived, but nothing happened there, either.

It turned out that both the president and vice president were in Washington and obviously not aboard. The crew must have been out performing some proficiency or test flying.

Im not sure if it had just taken off from Ft. Wayne or Indianapolis, or if was on an initial descent into Dayton, but why would a 747 be flying level at 7500 feet?

I have run this encounter through my mind a thousand times since it occurred, wondering if I did anything wrong or what should have I done differently.

I bet I have seen Air Force One from the air for the first and last time.


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