Two Days, Two Candidates in New Hampshire
Election time in the U.S. is the perfect time to capitalize on aviation’s unique capability to transport someone rapidly over long distances. This year, the two most visible presidential candidates used air travel to squeeze in multiple campaign stops each day during the final long weekend of the election season. New Hampshire, with only four electoral votes up for grabs, still drew a good deal of attention from both camps. But so did another dozen or so states… each candidate had plans to visit up to eight cities during the last two days before Election Day. Only an aircraft or two could deliver the candidates and their election teams to three or four events in different states on one day and repeat the process the following day. Both candidates began their final journeys in New Hampshire and ended up almost cross country by nightfall.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s “home away from home” was a USA Jet McDonnell Douglas MD-83. The airliner, configured for specialized charter flights, had ample room for staff, media, and security personnel. A second jet joined him towards the end of the campaign; this one being a Sun Country Boeing 737-800 which carried additional staff and media members. On the Saturday before the election, Mitt began his day in New Hampshire at a plane-side rally at the chilly Portsmouth International Airport at Pease. The support plane took off first, then the MD-83 departed for Iowa. They ended their day in Colorado, hours later. After a half-dozen additional stops across the country, the candidate would return to the Manchester Boston Regional Airport Monday evening before ending his odyssey in Boston Massachusetts for Election Day.
President Barack Obama, by the virtue of his office, used Air Force One in a similar fashion. In this case, he travelled in one of the modified Boeing 747s, designated as a VC-25 in Air Force use. His Democratic re-election team chartered an Xtra Airways Boeing 737-400 airliner to assist in carrying additional media and staff. The President began his Sunday by flying from Washington DC to Manchester NH, and continued on to three more states during the day. After more stops on Monday, he’d arrive very early Tuesday morning in Chicago to watch the election returns from there. In all, the President flew into Manchester (home to New Hampshire’s busiest commercial airport) seven times this year and the big Boeing 747 had no problems operating on the main 9250 foot runway. Air Force One carried a pool of media writers, photographers, and security agents and departed first, while the support B-737 departed shortly after it.
By using airplanes to travel, both men gained valuable time as they hop-scotched between distant states. They used the space on their aircraft for meetings, press conferences, and for relaxing and recharging during their hectic days. New Hampshire normally gains early attention for its’ first-in-the-nation primary almost a year before the big Presidential election, and the state grabbed some last minute attention as the candidates stumped for every last vote in the Granite State too. Aircraft were a valuable tool for both teams, and the flurry of activity at the state’s largest airports proved just how important aviation is to presidential election campaigns.