Bill Clinton’s Plane Aborts Take-Off in Africa; Fmr Prez ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ in Bon Jovi Press Plane

By Ed O'Keefe

Aug 1, 2008 9:10am

ABC News’ Kate Snow and Dana Hughes Report: It’s becoming a running joke except it’s not that funny.  For the seventh time, mechanical failures are holding up former President Clinton’s tour of Africa. 

At first we were reluctant to write about it, after all it was only the press corps suffering.  For more than 48 hours — from Monday at 4pm until Thursday at 1:02am — the small group of press who had signed up to cover Mr. Clinton’s annual trip to the continent to visit the work of his Clinton Foundation was stranded in Newark, New Jersey.  The former president was already safely overseas, having flown on a 767 reportedly owned by several Google executives. 

The 727 that was to ferry the press to Ethiopia had breakdown after breakdown — a broken air conditioner, a problem with the fuel tanks that led to an aborted take-off, a shattered cockpit window involving a small fire, a broken fuel valve.  One of Clinton’s advisors took to listing the problems on the back of his hand.  He ran out of room and had to use his middle finger.

Finally, Bon Jovi came to the rescue.

An old war horse of a 707 used by the rockers was finally brought in from the Bahamas to get the press back on track and safely to Addas Ababa. On Friday, in a frantic, now abbreviated schedule, there was a single event in Ethiopia covered by reporters.  Then it was back to the planes — the press 707 and the Clinton 767 — to dash to Rwanda.  But an hour after the press plane took off, a Clinton foundation aide came to our cabin looking sheepish.

"This comes from the category of you can’t make this up," he said. 

President Clinton’s beautiful plane — the one reporters had been so jealous of just days before — is now grounded.  Apparently, as the 767 sped down the runway in Addas Ababa, the take off was aborted — engine problems.  Everyone on board is fine but the plane is not.  Clinton will now join the press plane, which had to turn around in mid-air to retrieve the grounded president.

If there’s any silver lining at all, a Clinton aide said, Ethiopia is considered one of the top places in the world for repairing Boeing engines.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take long as space is getting a little cramped on the 707 — with four legs left on the trip.

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