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President Arrives in California for Trip to Carrier

Aired May 1, 2003 - 14:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's a long day of flying for President Bush. Marine One to Air Force One to, eventually, Navy One. I think the Army is going to be a little bit upset about this. They probably have an Apache helicopter they would like to put in the mix today. Should be an interesting climax this afternoon when a plane carrying the president lands or is captured, or whatever you want to call it, on an aircraft carrier steaming towards San Diego in the Pacific. Mr. Bush has just arrived at the Naval air station near San Diego, and that's where we find our Chris Burns -- hello, Chris.
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Miles. Well, the president is being briefed about now about how this flight will go on. This is an S-3A Viking plane, it is a surveillance and refueling plane, also an attack plane, a four-seater. The president will be there with a couple of crew members as well as a Secret Service agent. He is being briefed about what would happen if he has to eject.

Now, the president pretty much knows how that goes because he has in the past been a pilot for the National Guard in his younger days, so he knows what to expect. But the plane will be flying for about 20 minutes and arriving at the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Now, that kind of a landing is -- some people call it a controlled crash landing. It is a landing with a hook and a cable. The plane is traveling about 150 miles an hour, has about 300 feet to stop. So, rather suspenseful, even though you would imagine that the track record for the aircraft carrier is very, very good. They had more than 16,000 missions on that aircraft carrier over the last ten months. Now that it's steaming back here, the president is going to deliver the first speech ever by a president on an aircraft carrier on the high seas.

So this will be a first after he visits with the servicemen and women, about 5,000 on that ship, and having lunch with them as well.

What will the president say? Well, according to Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, he says it will be a book end to the Oval Office speech given six weeks ago when the war first started against Iraq. Will this be victory? Will he declare victory? No, he will not.

Ari saying that this will not legally change anything, that the conflict still does continue, but this will mark the official end of major conflict operations, now looking toward reconstruction. But there is still a lot to do, and because they want to keep this conflict status, because they still need to look for weapons of mass destruction, they still want to hunt down former Iraqi officials and, of course, they can't say it's all over because there are a lot of troops over there still. It's costing about $2 billion a month to continue that operation. So you can't say it's over quite yet.

The president, after making his speech, will spend the night on the aircraft carrier. Tomorrow, he goes on to Santa Clara to visit an arms factory, the Bradley and Hercules fighting vehicles. The president once again making yet another visit to a weapons factory, riding high on his popularity, his wartime popularity, to try to push through his tax plan. It is very much embattled on Capitol Hill -- back to you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Chris, there was a couple of reports out this morning the president was pushing for a back seat ride in an F-18, and that got nixed by the Secret Service. Have you heard about that one?

BURNS: No word on that. The president, obviously, would be very interested in flying just about any plane, having been a former pilot, so that comes as no surprise.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, Chris Burns. Appreciate it. We'll check in with you later.

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