Bill Clinton’s Diplomatic Mission Flew on Bizjet Wings

For former President Bill Clinton, the unofficial diplomatic mission to recover two detained journalists started with a private jet. Clinton tapped Boeing Business Jet owner Steven Bing for use of his jet to fly to North Korea on August 3 in an effort to free the imprisoned journalists. Clinton returned in the jet the next day having succeeded in his mission. For aircraft management firm Avjet Corp., negotiating the release of the journalists might have seemed like the easy part. They first learned of the mission three days before launch, and had to coordinate with the U.S. Department of State for permission to fly to North Korea; the Russian government for overflight permits; arrange for flight coordination between Japan and North Korea; arrange for ground support at Air Force bases in Alaska and Japan; clear crews' backgrounds through the Secret Service; and position relief pilots in Alaska. The mission was conducted as a Part 91 private flight, sponsored by Bing, and the BBJ spent 20 hours on the ground in Pyongyang, North Korea during the intense negotiations. In an ironic touch, the mission recalls the famous Doolittle raid on Japan in early 1942 from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet. To preserve security, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed the B-25 bombers had departed from, "Shangri La." Steven Bing's Los Angeles-based company is named Shangri La Entertainment.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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