The pilot of a plane carrying Donald Trump was involved in an engine problem late Saturday night over the Gulf of Mexico. He had to land quickly in New Orleans after taking off from the city.
According to sources familiar with the incident, Trump’s plane was forced to return to the airport immediately and make an unscheduled landing in Louisiana just before 11 p.m. Trump was trying to fly home from his Mar-a-Lago resort, Palm Beach, Fla. to the Four Seasons Hotel in New Orleans. He spoke with some of the top Republican Party donors at a private function.
Politico reported the incident first. Trump’s spokesperson declined to comment.
According to ADS-B Exchange tracking data, the flight had traveled approximately 75 miles from New Orleans Lakefront Airport. It reached an altitude of around 28,000 feet before turning back. According to people familiar with the incident, the Dassault Falcon carried a retinue including Secret Service agents, support staff, Trump, and some of his advisers. According to people, one of the plane’s engines died.
The Washington Post reviewed the tracking data and found that the plane began its journey in Texas. It flew to Palm Beach on Saturday, then headed to New Orleans. The plane was flying over water at the time it turned around to fly back to New Orleans. It was headed for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
A controller at air traffic control told the pilot that vehicles would be following him down the runway as the plane came in to land.
According to recordings archived at LiveATC.net, the pilot stated that “I appreciate it.”
According to sources familiar with the matter, the plane belonged to a donor and was loaned to Trump for the evening. The tail number of the plane was tied to a Utah-based company, which is the trustee for over 1,400 planes. It was not possible to immediately verify the identity of the donor.
Trump advisors worked with another donor to secure a plane that could be brought to New Orleans to meet Trump. Trump finally returned to Palm Beach in the plane of Craig Estey (a GOP donor who also founded Nevada Restaurant Services).
According to people familiar with the matter, Trump didn’t arrive at Palm Beach until the early hours of the morning.