A Big Fat Secret

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How A Baghdad-Bound 747 Turns Invisible...

So how do you fly a Boeing 747-200B, over five stories high and more than 200 feet long, carrying a gaggle of reporters and the U.S. president and his staff, halfway across the world's airspace, without anybody noticing? Well, it isn't easy. First, you hustle the press pool off, hush-hush, without any explanation, to the secluded, secure ramp at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas. It's Wednesday evening, the sun has set, Air Force One is dark, and the reporters surrender their cellphones. The flight crew had prepared for what they believed was a milk run to Washington for maintenance. President Bush arrived and climbed up the rear stairs instead of the front gangway as usual, so airport workers wouldn't notice him. The plane took off at 7:25 p.m. local time, without running lights and with all the window shades pulled down. As with all Air Force One flights, this one was conducted as a military mission, under military flight rules.