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Aboard Air Hope

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
Thirty-one reporters hauled their laptops, backpacks, tripods, and digital recorders off a press bus littered with pizza boxes and empty champagne bottles from the night before onto the windy tarmac at Des Moines airport this afternoon to board the first Obama press plane of the campaign season.
 
The novices shivered and posed for pictures, and the ones at the back of the line shouted at those in the front to hurry up and find their seats as the wind whipped around us.
 
Inside, the seating was arranged not alphabetically -- to my disappointment -- but by a campaign established order of the senator and his sister Amma (visiting him from Kenya) at the front, followed by campaign staffers and Secret Service, print reporters, your diligent campaign reporters/embeds, photographers and camera crews. Our names were printed on one by two inch labels and stuck onto the headrests.  
 
There were 50 seats in total on the Embraer Regional Jet ERJ, and the space was tight. The campaign reporters from the five networks -- who follow the candidate everyday and carry about thirty to forty pounds of gear with them -- found themselves in a painful struggle to squeeze their bulging backpacks under the seats in front of them. Packing lightly has never taken on more meaning. The crowded space meant it was also far more difficult to race to the front of the plane and stick a camera in the senator's face as he stopped to talk to a reporter about the Des Moines Register poll.
 
But no one could complain about the delightfully short ride to Sioux City, 200 miles covered in about 36 minutes. And beer, though no one was drinking, on the private charter was only a one dollar.
 
Once we landed and climbed onto yet another press bus and pulled away from the tarmac, we'll re-meet the plane in Omaha after an event in Council Bluffs, the little silver and green jet Express Jet sitting on the runway just needed to be named.
 
And NBC's Lee Cowan was quick to offer one up. "Air Hope," he dubbed it. 
 
I think it'll stick.