When it was announced that Donald Trump was going to make a stop in the Queen City, the first thing that came to my aviation mind was “PLEASE BRING THE 757!!” N757AF(the tail number for Donald’s Boeing 757-200) is on the photo bucket list of many aviation photographers and enthusiasts alike.
The thought crossed my mind that the mighty Boeing wouldn’t be making an appearance after learning of a luncheon in Boston late Wednesday morning. So we would be relegated to another small business jet to make the leg from Boston to Bangor. Wednesday morning, in a Facebook group of Boston aviation enthusiasts(you might call us geeks, we prefer enthusiasts), it was announced that Trump had indeed brought the 757 to Boston.
As Bangor began to prepare for the presumptive Republican nominee to visit the Cross Insurance Center, I was scouting for viewing points and best photo spots based on which runway would be active so as to get a shot I can hang on my wall of planes in my office. Charging batteries, cleaning lenses and making sure memory cards were ready to add to the album of not so typical aircraft that have touched down on the 11,439 foot runway. That’s when I got an alert on Facebook, the Bangor Daily News was looking to see if I would offer some aviation perspective on the visit. Sure! Sign me up.
A Shot In The Dark
After having talked to Sarah Cottrell from the BDN to see what they were looking for, it set my mind into motion to see if I could possibly go where many aviation enthusiasts had never been before. Inside Trump Force One. A few messages on Facebook, emails and phone calls, I was talking with Hannah Salem, press lead, to see if I could get an interview with the pilots. After pitching my story, I was thinking “stupid cell phone service in Maine”, but soon realized, the call wasn’t dropped.
She was either laughing with the phone on mute, or trying to figure out why someone would want to speak with the PILOTS of the aircraft and not media access to the rally. Seriously, the pilots. Her response was my call was the first she’d ever had for a request like that. While she was very intrigued by it, she told me to email her and she would push it up through and see what, if anything she could do. It was a long shot, but given the security issues and short turn around time, that wasn’t going to happen on this trip.
An airline workhorse, the 757 entered service in 1981 and for 23 years rolled off the assembly lines at Boeing. It’s intended use was a replacement on short to medium haul routes that the Boeing 727 tri-jet was serving. A mainstay with legacy carriers(Delta/Northwest, American/US Airways, United/Continental) here in the US as well as freighter operations with UPS, FEDEX and DHL. The airframe is powered with twin Rolls Royce RB211 or twin Pratt & Whitney PW2000 Turbofan engines that propel the craft through the atmosphere at upwards of 600mph an hour with a range of 4,100 nautical miles.
Though the intended use was for short and medium haul routes, the range of the 757 with an ETOPs(Extended Operations) has made it popular for international flights, some of which divert to Bangor for fuel due to increased headwinds or weather delays going into the New York and Philadelphia areas.
Donald’s Touch of Gold
This isn’t your average 757. At all. Having seen several documentaries on the aircraft, Mr Trump’s crew maintains this aircraft to his high standards. After all, if I had a 757, I’d expect it to be in tip top shape as well.
After rolling off the assembly line in 1991, now defunct airline Sterling Airways from Denmark took initial delivery. When the airline ceased operations the plane bounced from TAESA, a Mexican carrier to Paul Allen’s Vulcan Northwest Inc and then to aircraft management firm TAG Aviation. The Boeing 757-2J4 ownership was transferred to Trump when he took ownership in 2011.
At a price tag of $100 million, no expense was spared. From gold plated seatbelt buckles, on demand library of movies and music in each seat to the Trump family logo proudly displayed everywhere. Seven Alpha Foxtrot features a guest room with it’s own entertainment system as well as Mr Trump’s master suite with an even larger entertainment system than the guest suite and a bathroom with shower. There is custom wood and leather abound throughout the cabin. Trump’s 757 is powered by 2 Rolls Royce RB211 engines which are controlled from the full glass cockpit(electronics).
Coming to Bangor
If you follow this site or the associated social media accounts, you know there isn’t a plane in the world that can’t land at Bangor International Airport. And we have pictures to prove it. The 757 pales in comparison to the Antonov AN-225 or the Airbus A380, both of which having made stops in Bangor in the past 12-14 months. But as you can tell, this isn’t an ordinary 757.
With a VIP, things change a little. Sure, the fuel is the same, they’re using the same frequencies as the University Flying Club’s Cessna 152 and it parked in the same place a Gulfstream had parked to clear customs. Security is beefed up, but having handled President Obama, former President George W. Bush and other VIPs, this is just another day for the exceptional team at BGR.
Speaking via email to Bangor International Airport Assistant Manager James Canders, there was little that could be told due to security. Tough he did tell me they met with the Secret Service on Tuesday to discuss logistics and survey the site and then briefed their team on what was going to be happening. When asked if there were any out of the ordinary requests, he stated there hadn’t been anything out of the ordinary for catering requests from the Trump plane. Basically business as usual for the BGR team. Get the plane in, provide requested service and get it back in the air.
A spotter friend of mine from New Hampshire was in Boston to catch the Trump plane at Logan. He alerted me when the plane departed from Boston and I headed for the west side of the field to assume my position. With the weather pattern we have had the past couple days, the active runway was 15, which would bring the flight in over Hermon, rather than a 33 arrival over downtown Bangor. Sure, this isn’t my optimal spot, but this, coupled with the weather provided some amazing wingtip vortices in the photos. Listening to the captain as he was communicating with the Bangor Approach and eventually to Bangor tower they got the clear to land with the ILS(instrument landing) on Runway One Five.
At about 800-1,000 feet the landing lights on the landing gear peered through the clouds. I grabbed my camera from the truck and went into the grassy area on the side of the road looking at the beginning of the runway 15 on the west side of the field. Locking focus on the plane, I began shooting as it got close to the ground and through the gear touching down. The weather provided perfect conditions for wingtip vortices and no harsh shadows from the sun.
Reversing thrusts, the plane slowed and taxied to parking between the International Arrivals building and the new C&L Aero facility. From there, Mr Trump was taken by motorcade to the Cross Center.
After arriving back at the airport, Mr Trump boarded the plane and within minutes was taxiing down taxiway Alpha past the lineup of KC-135s belonging to our beloved Maine~iacs of the 101st Air Refuelling Wing. After a brief wait at the end, 7 Alpha Foxtrot slowly took the runway and the twin Rolls Royce turbofans began to roar, thrusting the plane down 15.
Now at the General Aviation/Bangor Aviation Services Terminal, a crowd began to assemble along with one at the gate near the Maine Air Museum. Some older women clad in their Trump t-shirts, a few children with their parents and others gathered to watch the plane rotate off of the runway and climb to the sky. As the plane shot into the clouds over Bangor, there were people waving, holding signs high and others snapping photos with cameras and their cell phones. Just another not so typical arrival at Bangor International Airport. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get a regional jet to break up the monotony.