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With Clinton to Africa–Not Yet

Twenty-four hours after posting about the delayed departure of the media accompanying President Clinton on his trip to Africa, we are … still waiting.

Journalists and staff have been stranded here at Newark Airport, New Jersey, since Monday afternoon.

A separate aircraft carrying Clinton and his party left on time. He is getting ready to start his second day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The former president visits Africa every year to look at projects supported by his foundation. This year’s itinerary includes Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, and Senegal. 

Clinton Foundation staff are looking after us, putting us up in a hotel for two nights now. A late lunch was arranged in a hotel bar yesterday, but most journalists were to be found in the lounge with the wireless Internet connection. Everyone hugged the walls so they could plug devices into power points.

Back at the departure terminal in the early evening,we received a stream of reports about the status of the plane, none of them good.

The windshield was repaired, but now there were problems with an oxygen valve. Then came news that a part was needed to regulate the flow of fuel from one tank to another, necessary for a flight of more than five hours. “We’re toast,” an exhausted member of the flight crew was heard to say round about midnight.

Cabin crew meanwhile retrieved dinner from the plane and served it in the terminal. Journalists filmed one another. Once again bags were offloaded from the 727 and dispatched to the hotel.

This morning brought an encouraging email from the foundation staff: “Our new flight will depart from JFK Airport … We have ALL the confidence in this new crew and aircraft and promise that you will not have to board the 727, much less fly on it for the duration of the journey.”

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