Pentagon Rejects Speaker Pelosi's Request for Military Aircraft

Reardon recalls that "shuttle service" began when as a result of 9/11 all commercial airports were closed. "It was a time of great uncertainty, so right after 9/11, Speaker Hastert requested from the Department of Defense airlift support because of airport closures and his position" in presidential succession.

"In 2003, the increased security environment and his vulnerability in a commercial airport led to agreements with DOD for him to use 89th Airlift Wing assets," Reardon says.

A Fourth Option?

There are four types of planes available at the 89th Airlift wing, at nearby Andrews Air Force Base -- the C-20 Hastert once used, C-21s which are even smaller than the C-20 and thus not able to fly nonstop to San Francisco, and the fabled C-32.

There is also the C-37A -- a military version of the Gulf Stream 5, which is about the same size as the C-20, but is able to fly nonstop to California. One military source who asked not to be identified says that it may be that Pelosi and her aides were shown a C-37A and didn't understand that it was different and more potent than a C-20, since they look so similar.

Would Pelosi be willing to use a smaller plane than the lavish C-32 as long as it could fly coast to coast?

"Yes," said a Pelosi aide.

Z Byron Wolf, Dean Norland and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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