Donald Trump has commuted from Morristown Airport in the past. But this weekend will be a little different.
If he departs from there on Sunday, May 7, 2017, as planned, he will be aboard Air Force One, not a corporate jet.
“The Air Force has determined it can land a 757 here,” said Maria Sheridan, the airport’s senior director of government affairs and business development.
President Trump, returning to New York for the first time since his inauguration, is scheduled to attend a dinner reception on the Intrepid aircraft carrier in Manhattan on Thursday, May 4, and spend the rest of the weekend at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster.
The President is not anticipated to arrive via Morristown Airport. But the airport is preparing to accommodate the empty Boeing 757 (it’s only called Air Force One when the commander-in-chief is on board) over the weekend, until Trump flies out on Sunday afternoon or evening, Sheridan said.
Although smaller than the 747 that the President often uses, a 757 still is about twice the size of corporate aircraft that typically take off and land on the 6,000-foot runway, Sheridan said.
That runway is too short for a 747. But it’s the largest runway, excluding Newark Liberty International Airport, in the immediate vicinity of Bedminster, Sheridan said.
The Federal Aviation Administration has declared a 10-mile ring around Bedminster as “national defense airspace,” a no-fly zone that will close Somerset Airport in Bedminister and Solberg Airport in Readington from May 4-7.
Other aviation restrictions will extend 30 nautical miles from Bedminster. Those restrictions won’t ground corporate flights from Morristown Airport. But they will affect flight schools there, Sheridan said.
Student pilots will have to fly beyond the 30-mile radius before performing training maneuvers, she said.
Pilots who violate these rules face fines, license revocations, and potentially unpleasant interactions with fighter jets.
MORRISTOWN’S GROUND GAME
While plans could change, Morristown Airport anticipates the President will arrive from Bedminister on Sunday via car, not via his Marine One helicopter.
“The Morristown police will be involved during the time the President is physically en route,” said Sheridan. Police from Hanover and Florham Park, the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police also may assist the Secret Service, she said.
Morristown Police Chief Pete Demnitz could not be reached for comment. Town Administrator Jillian Barrick said the town is waiting to see what police- and firefighter overtime costs may be associated with Presidential visits that use Morristown Airport.
“There will definitely be an impact on the town… the question is to what degree,” said Barrick. “While we have not explicitly outlined a line item for this expense, we expect we can absorb the cost without increasing taxes. But it will affect our surplus.”
Morris County Sheriff James Gannon declined to comment on projected costs for his office.
Officials in Bedminster and in Palm Beach, FL, where President Trump has spent weekends at his Mar-a-Lago estate, have expressed concerns about shouldering security costs.
There has been speculation about whether Trump will become a frequent visitor to Bedminister when Florida gets too hot in the summer.
A spending measure crafted under the leadership of Morristown-based Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would provide up to $41 million in reimbursements to municipalities tasked with augmenting Presidential security.
Morristown will pursue any reimbursements that become available, Barrick said.
Aside from a little extra overtime, Morristown Airport does not expect to incur major expenses connected with Presidential visits, according to Sheridan. The military handles all technical needs of the President’s aircraft, she said.
Morristown Airport has experience with VIPs. Both Presidents Bush and President Clinton have come through Morristown Airport in the past, along with numerous candidates.
“Trump has flown from Morristown before, as a businessman,” Sheridan acknowledged.
Morristown Airport actually sits in Hanover. Morristown retains primary police and firefighting responsibility there, however, because the town acquired the Columbia Meadows property when it purchased a nearby waterworks in the 1930s.
The site was envisioned as a terminal for transatlantic dirigible service to Germany … until the Hindenburg exploded over Lakehurst.