(See UPDATE below. And see later update. ) What is up with the WaPo's scare coverage of aviation? A story on line just now leads this way, emphasis added:
The planes, according to info way down in the story plus other accounts, were at their closest three miles apart, with one trailing the other on the approach for landing. If instead they had been heading straight at each other, with a combined closing speed of 600 to 1000 miles per hour, a three mile gap would have been closed in seconds. But in this case, their closing speed would have been slow. This was indeed an air traffic control mistake, in that they were supposed to be five miles apart, mainly to allow the "wake turbulence" created by the large Air Force C-17 to dissipate before the next plane landed. But it's not like there was a chance of one plane running into the other. There is no basis for the article's leadoff claim that the planes were "dangerously close."
As FAA spokesmen said, and as the NYT made clear in a much calmer-toned story (the WSJ calm too), the maneuvers required of Mrs. Obama's plane -- doing "S-turns" to slow down as it neared the airport, and then "going around" for another approach when it became clear that the first plane wouldn't get off the runway in time -- are routine and the farthest things from emergency procedures. A mistake, yes. A near-miss, no.