Air Force One lands in Seattle on April 22nd, 2022
With the Olympic Mountains in the background, Air Force One lands in SeaTac, Washington, beginning Joe Biden's first trip to the Evergreen State as President (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The cool after­noon air felt elec­tric as press and staff await­ed the begin­ning of the first pres­i­den­tial vis­it to Wash­ing­ton State in near­ly six years.

Air Force One land­ed at 5:11 PM Pacif­ic Time at Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. On the tar­mac, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden was greet­ed by Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, Seat­tle May­or Bruce Har­rell, Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith, and SeaT­ac May­or Jake Simp­son,​ before being whisked away to a DNC fundrais­er in the Lau­rel­hurst neigh­bor­hood of Seattle.

Pres­i­dents tend to vis­it swing states and their party’s strong­holds, so reli­ably Demo­c­ra­t­ic states like Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon haven’t expe­ri­enced the thrill of a pres­i­den­tial vis­it since Pres­i­dent Obama’s last trip in 2016.

This was the first Air Force land­ing I’ve expe­ri­enced in person.

I arrived at the air­port about an hour before Air Force One arrived to check in with the White House and Secret Ser­vice. After being screened, I walked out to the tar­mac. Reporters from all the major Seat­tle tele­vi­sion sta­tions and The Seat­tle Times had set up cam­eras atop a flat-bed truck parked par­al­lel to Air Force One’s des­ig­nat­ed park­ing spot on the tarmac.

As the wind picked up and began to fur­ther chill the air, I looked behind me to see a sniper team set up atop a ware­house roof direct­ly behind the truck and to the left of it. A Secret Ser­vice agent stood just behind the met­al bar­ri­cades near the front of the truck, and sev­er­al Port employ­ees could be seen mak­ing the rounds.

Police or Secret Ser­vice oper­at­ed vehi­cles occa­sion­al­ly crossed the tar­mac and cor­re­spon­dents filmed quick updates on flight delays in the periphery.

At 5:10 PM, every cam­era was point­ed to the north as Air Force One appeared on the hori­zon. By this point, the wind was blow­ing cold rain in seem­ing­ly every direc­tion for a prop­er Seat­tle welcome!

Ten min­utes lat­er, Pres­i­dent Biden’s VC-25A trans­port stood just 50 meters in front of our truck, and press and staff began spilling out of the mod­i­fied Boe­ing 747’s rear airstairs. The sight of the plane was awe-inspir­ing; this par­tic­u­lar pres­i­den­tial trans­port was a lot larg­er than I had imag­ined it would be.

The motor­cade of motor­cy­cles, SUVs, and limos began rolling in at 5:23 PM, offload­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee and local dig­ni­taries like May­or Har­rell near the plane. Pres­i­dent Biden descend­ed a set of truck-mount­ed airstairs at 5:25 PM, greet­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee first while staff and the trav­el­ing press climbed into black SUVs.

By 5:26 PM, every­one had loaded, and by 5:28 PM the motor­cy­cles and white vans bring­ing up the pres­i­den­tial motorcade’s tail end were rolling off the tar­mac. By 5:30 PM, the snipers and press on the truck were pack­ing up and head­ing out.

The speedy dis­em­bark­ing process ran like a well-oiled machine, with the tar­mac clear­ing just as quick­ly as it had filled up.

Although shiv­er­ing and wet, I couldn’t stop grin­ning at the curi­ous feel­ing of step­ping into a scene from The West Wing.

The jour­nal­ists present who have pre­vi­ous­ly cov­ered Air Force One land­ings assured me that wit­ness­ing the pageantry and grav­i­tas of the Unit­ed States pres­i­den­cy is always a lit­tle sur­re­al. And it nev­er gets old.

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