Yesterday I had the opportunity to greet Madame Vice President Kamala Harris on the tarmac on her arrival to New York City at LaGuardia Airport on Air Force Two. I received an invite on Friday morning and when that kind of email comes in your inbox, you clear your schedule!
Ten years ago, I was invited to greet President Barack Obama when he arrived on Air Force One (see our article on that visit here). It was really interesting to compare the two visits. In both cases, there was a Secret Service ID check and security. At John F. Kennedy Airport where Obama landed, we walked through a huge military hangar directly to a tarmac. At LaGuardia Airport, we checked in at a hangar and then rode on electric Port Authority buses to the tarmac to wait for the landing of the plane. There was a large contingent of security agencies present: Secret Service, NYPD, FDNY, and Port Authority Police.
An interesting crowd of people, many in the creative fields, were invited to yesterday’s event in addition to a small group of press people. Everything happened pretty quickly in both cases once the plane landed. One difference with Air Force One’s arrival was that it was accompanied by helicopters. The Vice President’s plane arrived solo.
The crowd cheered as Vice President Kamala Harris came into view on the front doorway of the plane and walked down the flight stair. She came directly to greet the crowd and walked the entire length of the barricade. She spent quite a bit of time talking, shaking hands, and taking photographs with everyone standing in the front row. With President Obama, he said hello to everyone and shook hands but did not have time to have longer conversations. When the meet and greet was over, Vice President Harris and her team got into Secret Service SUVs and the motorcade (including the police cars and FDNY ambulance) and drove directly off the tarmac. For Obama, he hopped into one of the helicopters. It’s a quick, festive event and then everyone disperses to go back to their real lives.
I enjoy attending these kinds of events because it provides a truly “behind the scenes” look at how city infrastructure is adapted to accommodate government visits. (I have also been flown on an Osprey helicopter to the USS New York during Fleet Week from the Downtown Heliport, accompanied the Tuskegee Airmen to the 2008 Presidential Inauguration, and attended both the 2004 and 2008 Inaugural Balls). In both airport arrivals, Air Force One and Air Force Two arrived on a runway that is not used by the other planes and does not require any takeover of public terminals. The Port Authority staff I spoke to were upbeat and helpful and attempted to direct an unfortunate guest who arrived too late for the event. They excitedly asked what she was like when the event was over. See more photos from the event in the gallery below:
Next, check out 10 Secrets of LaGuardia Airport