HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – The Secret Service agent flashed his badge and told airport manager Jodi DiPane-Saleem that a VIP would be landing in a helicopter at Central Jersey Regional Airport and that a security detail of seven cars would be meeting the helicopter.
The required background checks and security sweep at the facility on Millstone River Road were taken care of on Thursday and as planned the Secret Service and State Police arrived on Friday morning to greet the VIP.
The chartered helicopter landed with little fanfare 35 minutes late – par for its chief passenger who earned a reputation for always running behind schedule when he was campaigning to be the President of the United States almost 20 years ago.
Former President Bill Clinton flew into central New Jersey to campaign for his wife Hillary who is running for the Democratic nomination for president. He spoke to a crowd of 700 students at Edison High School later that afternoon.
Clinton stepped off the helicopter and took time to pose for a few pictures on the tarmac, one with the “airport family” and another with 17-year-old Cameron Bauer, a student at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.
The Secret Service agents had told DiPane-Saleem there would be no autographs, but Clinton was more than happy to sign a personalized message on a collage presented to Bauer by the “airport family” when he qualified for his pilot’s license a few years ago.
Bauer has been a “regular” at the airport since he was 11 when he took his first ride in an airplane, according to DiPane-Saleem, who is co-owner of Tri-State Aviation flight school with her husband.
“That ride changed his life,” she said. “Since then, all he’s ever wanted to do is fly,” she added.
He works whenever he can at the airport as a “line boy” fueling aircraft, washing and waxing the planes and other assorted chores, according to DiPane-Saleem.
“He even takes the airport dogs for walks,” she said.
Bauer said he and Clinton shook hands and exchanged pleasantries; he held the collage as the former president signed “Cameron, Congratulations. Fly high and safe! Bill Clinton”
“He was president when I was born,” Bauer said after meeting the former president. “It was just crazy for me to see him walk out of the helicopter; we’re just learning about him in history class; it was definitely one of the coolest things that’s happened to me, I’ve never met anyone that well known.”
Airport owner Joe Horner didn't get a chance to meet the former president.
"I was on the other side of the runway taking a delivery of fuel," he said.