President Joe Biden has been taking the shorter stairs to get on Air Force One much more often since falling over a sandbag on stage during the US Air Force Academy graduation in June, a news photography analysis has shown.
NPR reports that Mr Biden has been eschewing the 18-foot staircase, which may at times be unstable, traditionally used when getting on and off Air Force One.
Instead of exiting and entering via the upper door, Mr Biden has been using the staircase that folds out from the lower level rather than the separate stairs wheeled up to the plane at airports and bases. Using the lower, foldable stairs means that most of Mr Biden’s journey up to the main floor of the aircraft takes place inside, away from the view of the cameras.
The 80-year-old commander-in-chief has stumbled on the stairs on more than one occasion, with the White House brushing aside questions on the issue as Mr Biden’s age is one of the main worries on the minds of voters as he runs for re-election.
Mr Biden still uses the longer stairs when the red carpet is rolled out and he’s greeted by officials at an airport.
Kent Gray, a veteran of nine presidential campaigns who has worked for two Republican presidents, told NPR that “very few people have noticed that he’s mostly using the smaller stairs. But everybody’s going to notice if there’s a really bad slip and fall down the tall air-stairs”.
During the 1996 campaign between President Bill Clinton, aged 50 at the time, and Senator Bob Dole, who was 73, Mr Gray helped set up an event for Mr Dole in Chico, California.
Mr Gray had set up unstable white columns at the front edge of the stage.
“And somehow and nobody still knows how, Bob Dole decided to get right up on the front of the stage and kind of fell through it,” he told NPR.
The senator struck some journalists and a Secret Service agent before hitting the ground. The episode, which was filmed and screened repeatedly, grew into a metaphor for the unsuccessful Dole campaign.
A former Biden official told NPR that the White House is being “overly protective in a way that often does him a disservice”.
“You don’t measure presidents by their ability to navigate steps,” Obama chief strategist David Axelrod told the outlet. “You elect presidents based on their ability to navigate problems.”
“It’s not a secret that the questions that people have mostly go to age, so anything that underscores that point is problematical,” he added. “On the other hand, it would be more problematical if he were, you know, injured on the steps of his plane.”
Mr Gray planned some events for then-President Donald Trump and noted that the shorter stairs came in useful on windy days.
“Just because his hair would get messed up and it would take, you know, 10 minutes to get it put back the way he wanted it,” he told NPR.