The Air Force jet carrying Vice President Bush and his campaign staff was forced to dive 200 feet to avoid a collision today with a single-engine plane that crossed its path on final approach to Boeing Field here.
The copilot of Air Force Two, the vice president's plane, spotted the small plane approaching from the left and took command of the controls, causing Bush's plane to drop rapidly about 200 feet, according to Joe Hagin, an aide to Bush. The incident occurred at about 3,000 feet.
"I literally wasn't aware at all about it and somebody had to come up and tell me well after the fact that there had been a near miss," Bush said.
But CBS News correspondent Phil Jones, who was on Bush's plane, said "it felt like we'd hit an air pocket at first, but then I looked out the window and there the thing was. It was just starting to pass over Air Force Two when I saw it. No question, we would've been hit broadside if we hadn't dived like that."
No one was injured.
Hagin said the smaller plane was about 500 feet from Bush's plane when the copilot took evasive action. However, the Federal Aviation Administration could not confirm how far apart the planes were, or that the copilot grabbed the controls, and said the Air Force Two pilot was not reporting the incident as a "near miss."
FAA standards require planes to be at least 5 miles apart horizontally and 1,000 feet apart vertically.
FAA spokesman Ed Pinto in Washington said the pilot of Bush's plane was notified of the small plane crossing in front of him.
Pinto said the Air Force Two pilot spotted the plane himself and "nosed down a little bit . . . , dropped a couple hundred feet, but it was not a vertical drop.
It was the second close call for Bush's plane in the last month. On Sept. 30, air traffic officials said a plane came closer than regulations allow to the vice president's plane during its takeoff from the Cleveland airport.
Hagin said today's incident was considerably more serious.