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Navy airplane flew over Midwest with 'Trump' flight ID

March 14, 2016 (Photo Credit: Navy)

This article was published at 5:43 p.m. on March 14 and has been updated.

In recent weeks, “TRUMP” has been flying high over Oklahoma.

That’s the flight identifier of a Navy E-6B command and control aircraft, which has broadcast the Republican front-runner’s name on two flights in the run-up to the state's primaries. 

Both missions were flown in March by the same E-6B Mercury, a converted Boeing 707 whose TACAMO aircrew relays messages to the fleet of ballistic missile submarines that lurk around the globe, ready to fire nuclear-armed missiles at the president's order. TACAMO stands for "take charge and move out."

The E-6B flew missions March 8 and March 13 with flight identifier “TRUMP,” which appears not to have swayed enough primary voters — Sen. Ted Cruz topped Donald Trump in the March 14 Republican primary; in the Democratic contest, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton. In recent months, Donald Trump jetted to the Sooner State aboard his luxury Boeing 757.

"TRUMP" was labeled as the call sign on flight status tracker Planefinder.net, but a Naval Air Forces spokeswoman clarified to say that it was actually the plane's flight identifier and that its call sign on the missions was "ABNET 77." She said the flight ID had been set to "TRUMP" by an instructor in a training session and that the crew hadn't been aware of it and had not verbally answered to "TRUMP" on the mission.

"During the demonstration the instructor manually entered the text 'TRUMP' as an example to illustrate how to enter text on the numerical keypad," Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld said in an email. "After the training concluded, the crew zeroed the transponder but didn't realize the flight ID would remain even after zeroing the transponder. When the aircraft was later flown, the transponder broadcasted the last entered flight ID."

Aircrew pre-flight checks will be revised to verify flight IDs before every flight, Groeneveld added. 

Two E-6B squadrons are based at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma: the “Ironmen” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 3 and the “Shadows” of VQ-4. The E-6B with flight ID "TRUMP" was with VQ-4 but it isn't clear who decided to pick the identifier, which was spotted by a Twitter user and reported by The Aviationist. The plane appears to have taken off from Oklahoma on March 8 and headed north to Omaha, Nebraska. On previous missions, the Navy E-6B was identified as “BIGDON3.”

It also isn’t known whether any E-6B pilots will decide to recognize the state's primary victors with handles like "CRUZ" or “BERNIE.” 

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