by John McCormick
CLEMSON, S.C. – After flying separately from his media entourage for most of the past month, Sen. Barack Obama shed his smaller plane today and started flying with the pack.
On a four-city South Carolina fly-around today, the Illinois Democrat, his Secret Service detail, several staff members and members of the media all shared space -- and expense -- for a 737-800 aircraft.
Obama had spent much of the past year crisscrossing the country on a much smaller, more comfortable Gulfstream II. In most cases, when his campaign offered a press charter, it was on a different aircraft than the candidate.
Reporters had started to gripe about not having the candidate on the same plane, something considered a tradition in presidential campaigns.
Earlier this month, for example, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign introduced a 737 plane dubbed "Hill Force One," a bird that has suffered several mechanical glitches in recent days, delaying her to several events.
So far, it has been smooth flying on the ATA Airlines aircraft that is expected to serve as Obama's plane from here forward, as the campaign transitions after Saturday's South Carolina primary to a flying marathon between states that will hold primaries or caucuses on Feb. 5.