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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.”

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.