Feb 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's flight home on AF1

Joe Biden

President Biden. Photo: Margaret Talev

President Biden's first flight on Air Force One as commander-in-chief lasted 25 minutes — about one-third the time it takes for the Acela to trace his beloved Amtrak route from D.C. to Wilmington.

What he's saying: It's a "great honor" to ride as president on the iconic symbol of American power and diplomacy, Biden told reporters on the tarmac upon landing at New Castle Air National Guard Base.

  • “You realize, they’ve used this air strip to practice landings for the 747 takeoffs for the president’s plane for a long time,” Biden said, with the nostalgia of someone with a home just five miles away. “Now I’m getting off that plane. It’s really kind of strange.”

Behind the scenes: Axios was on board for Biden's sunset flight home to Delaware on Friday.

  • At Joint Base Andrews, he tucked a challenge coin into the palm of the female colonel who greeted and saluted him before he boarded at 5:31 p.m. The flight was wheels up at 5:42 p.m. and landed at 6:07 p.m.
  • The weekend family visit comes between his son Hunter's birthday and the Super Bowl, between a crucial COVID-19 budget framework vote and the impeachment trial of former President Trump.
  • TVs aboard the flight showed ESPN — and CNN, a departure from his predecessor's viewing habits.
  • Everyone including the president wore masks.
  • Biden didn't talk politics with his press corps — nor did he make the customary trip to the back of the cabin for small talk amid the pandemic, opting instead for a short, outdoor gaggle after the flight.
  • After 36 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years as Barack Obama's wingman, Biden has taken countless flights on all kinds of government aircraft. Friday's short flight was on the "baby" plane, a 757, not the big 747. It's “a great plane," he said. "It’s the same plane that we had as vice president, only it’s much nicer.”
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