LAKE CLEAR - Former Vice President Dick Cheney was in the Adirondacks for about four-and-a-half hours Friday.
Cheney flew into the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear and traveled to Camp Topridge on Upper St. Regis Lake for a retreat being held by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. Cheney is an AEI trustee along with Harlan Crow, the Texas real estate mogul who owns Camp Topridge.
Cheney's spokeswoman at AEI, Lucy Tutwiler, said the former vice president would only be in the Adirondacks "for a little while."
The jet in which former Vice President Dick Cheney flew to the Adirondacks awaits his return Friday on the runway in front of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
"He's up there for a private event," she said. "He's there for the retreat with the AEI group."
Tutwiler declined to provide any more details about Cheney's visit.
Cheney arrived at the Lake Clear airport in a private Hawker 850 jet that landed around 11:35 a.m. His plane departed the airport at 4:04 p.m., headed for Reading, Pa., according to airport staff.
Town of Harrietstown Councilman and Airport Committee Chairman Barry DeFuria said he was told by airport management Thursday night that they were expecting a visit from the former vice president. The town owns and manages the airport.
"I heard we were expecting him," DeFuria said. "I was basically told not to go hunting, if that tells you anything."
DeFuria was jokingly referring to the February 2006 hunting accident in which Cheney shot Texas attorney Harry Whittington while taking part in a quail hunt on a ranch in Texas. Whittington was injured in the face, neck, and upper torso. He was discharged from the hospital six days after the shooting.
Cheney, 68, has maintained a public profile since leaving office and has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration's national security policies.
The former vice president underwent spinal surgery last week in Washington; several people at the airport Friday saw him walking with a cane.
"He's doing well," Tutwiler said.
Assistant Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch said the "high-profile" visitor, whom he declined to identify, was accompanied by U.S. Secret Service agents and left the airport in a caravan of vehicles escorted by state police. State police Capt. Robert LaFountain declined to comment on Cheney's visit and referred additional questions to the Secret Service. The person who answered the phone at the Secret Service field office in Albany said their head agent wasn't available for comment because she believed he was traveling in the Adirondacks with Cheney.
By custom, a former vice president only receives six months of Secret Service protection after leaving office, but President Obama has reportedly extended that protection for Cheney.
It isn't the first time the Adirondack Regional Airport has had a high-profile visitor.
In October of last year, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, landed at the Lake Clear airport in a 757, the largest plane that the 6,500-feet-long runway, the longest in the Park, can handle. Mullen met in Lake Placid with his counterparts from Britain, France, Italy and Germany to discuss military policy in Afghanistan.
"We get our fair share of high-rollers in there," DeFuria said.
Private airplanes can fly into the airport at any time, and the airport charges them fees for landing, parking, fuel and other services. Hurwitch said many people flying in on private jets are business people, often CEOs of companies.
"Most of the time, I don't recognize them," Hurwitch said. "It's easier to not know who they are and just treat them like every other customer. I think that's why they come up here - so they can just get away from everything."