Prestwick airport has been told to expect the arrival of a US military Boeing 757 aircraft, that is occasionally used by Trump, on January 19 – the day before his Democratic rival takes charge at the White House.
Speculation surrounding Trump’s plans has been fuelled by the activity of US Army aircraft, which were based at Prestwick airport for a week and said to be carrying out 3D reconnaissance of the president’s Turnberry resort.
Sources at Prestwick said two US military surveillance aircraft were circling Turnberry in November, using the Ayrshire aviation hub as a base. US media has reported that Trump will break with tradition and snub the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, instead announcing a re-election bid on Air Force One.
Aircraft used by the President, First Lady and Vice-President are given a US special call sign as opposed to a tail number to make it easier for air traffic controllers to give them special treatment.
Air traffic controllers receive details of the arrival of a plane with a US special call sign weeks in advance but are not told exactly which plane when the booking is made. The source at Prestwick airport, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “There is a booking for an American military version of the Boeing 757 on January 19, the day before the inauguration. That’s one that’s normally used by the Vice-President but often used by the First Lady. Presidential flights tend to get booked far in advance, because of the work that has to be done around it.”
Airport sources said surveillance planes appeared to lay the groundwork for Trump’s arrival in November. An MC-12W Liberty – a US Air Force version of the King Air 350ER, which is modified for the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) role – landed at Prestwick on November 12. It made a number of flights over Trump Turnberry.
Another US Army aircraft that visited the airport on November 12 also carried out surveillance flights over Trump Turnberry.
A source said: “The survey aircraft was based at Prestwick for about a week. It is usually a sign Trump is going to be somewhere for an extended period.”
Some media outlets in the US have speculated that Trump would announce a 2024 re-election bid during a flight on one of the President’s official Air Force One planes on inauguration day.
Veteran NBC reporter Ken Dilanian tweeted: “Trump may announce for 2024 on inauguration day. Either way, he won’t attend the inauguration and does not plan to invite Biden to the White House or even call him.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump has not finalised his plans for inauguration day.
The US Department of State – America’s equivalent of the Foreign Office – said it was for the White House to comment. The White House did not respond.
The Scottish Government said the UK Government’s Foreign Office is responsible for planning Presidential visits. Transport Scotland said: “This is an operational matter for the airport itself”.
Prestwick airport and the Foreign Office did not comment.