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Sep 17, 5:07 PM EDT

Mechanical issue with first lady's airplane leads to unusual airport greeting from Obama


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Who was the mystery passenger President Barack Obama greeted Wednesday aboard a government aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base after he returned from Florida?

It was none other than his wife, Michelle Obama.

The first lady was still parked at Andrews at the same time she was scheduled to be at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. A maintenance issue with the plane she was assigned delayed her by about 90 minutes, the White House said.

So there she sat waiting for the problem to be fixed when Air Force One flew in from Tampa with the president.

After a brief chat at the bottom of the Air Force One stairs with a general who greeted Obama and a Secret Service agent, the president was driven the short distance to the second airplane and boarded it. The unusual presidential move prompted speculation from reporters.

The mystery soon was solved when White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama, who had spent Tuesday night in Tampa, had stopped to visit with the first lady before her trip. Obama spent a few minutes with Mrs. Obama before his motorcade left for the White House.

Minutes later, Mrs. Obama got off the plane and walked a short distance to another jet that soon was airborne and headed for Memphis.

Obama traveled to and from the White House by motorcade instead of by the Marine One helicopter because the South Lawn was being used for Wednesday evening's picnic for members of Congress.

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Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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