How an aviation nut in Sheffield broke news of Donald Trump’s secret Iraq trip

It was meant to be a secret trip to visit troops in Iraq – but thanks to an eagle-eyed snapper in South Yorkshire news of Donald Trump's visit to the Middle East got out sooner than it should have.

Self-described "aviation nut" Alan Meloy was on his front doorstep taking pictures of aircraft over the Sheffield suburb of Chapeltown when he spotted something a bit different flying up above.

Trump Iraq
Trump Iraq

He quickly photographed the unusual plane and immediately recognised it to be one of the two aircraft used as Air Force One, the name given to the plane in which the US President is flying.

At this point Trump's Iraq visit was still top secret – he and First Lady Melania had left Washington DC without fanfare in the middle of the night.

Air Force One pictured over South Yorkshire
Air Force One pictured over South Yorkshire

So when Alan posted the image on photo-sharing site Flickr to see if anyone else had spotted it, he was met with some scepticism – the plane was flying under a false callsign to keep the trip a secret.

But when other enthusiasts spotted the image and also recognised it as one of the two VC-25 planes used as Air Force One, they cross-referenced it with tracking data and deduced the president was likely to be on his way to the Middle East.

With the news being so widely discussed online thanks to Alan's photo, a ban on reporting the trip, agreed with the White House press corps, was lifted.

Alan, meanwhile, has found himself the centre of attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

"It's one of those weird moments where you're right place and right time," he told the Guardian. "Boxing Day dawns clear and bright, the next thing there's an interesting airplane."