After Rick posted about President Obama’s arrival at Palm Springs with AIRFORCE ONE parked on the tarmac of that little town I got curious to know about U.S. Presidents airtravel throughout history.
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term refers to those Air Force aircraft specifically designed, built, and used for the purpose of transporting the president. The Presidential aircraft is a prominent symbol of the American presidency and its power.
“Sacred Cow” VC 118 “Independence” Douglas C118 of Harry S. Truman
The idea of designating specific military aircraft to transport the President arose in 1943, when officials of the United States Army Air Forces – the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force – became concerned with relying on commercial airlines to transport the President. A C-87 Liberator Express was reconfigured for use as a presidential transport; however, it was rejected by the Secret Service amid concerns over the aircraft's safety record. A C-54 Skymaster was then converted for presidential use; this aircraft, dubbed the Sacred Cow, transported President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and was subsequently used for another two years by President Harry S. Truman.
The "Air Force One" call sign was created after a 1953 incident during which a flight carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same call sign. Several aircraft have been used as Air Force One since the creation of the presidential fleet, including two Boeing 707s introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, respectively; since 1990, the presidential fleet has consisted of two Boeing VC-25As – specifically configured, highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft. The Air Force is looking into replacing the two VC-25 aircraft with three replacement aircraft beginning in 2017.
Lockheed VC 121 Pres. Eisenhower
On 11 October 1910, Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an aircraft, although at the time of the flight in an early Wright Flyer from Kinloch Field (near St. Louis, Missouri), he was no longer in office, having been succeeded by William Howard Taft. The record-making occasion was a brief fly-ver of the crowd at a country fair but was nonetheless the beginning of presidential air travel.
Prior to World War II, overseas and cross-country presidential travel was rare. Lack of wireless telecommunication and quick transportation made long-distance travel impractical, as it took much time and isolated the president from events in Washington, D.C. Railroads were a safer and more reliable option if the President needed to travel to distant states. By the late 1930s, with the arrival of aircraft such as the Douglas DC-3, increasing numbers of the U.S. public saw passenger air travel as a reasonable mode of transportation. All-metal aircraft, more reliable engines, and new radio aids to navigation had made commercial airline travel safer and more convenient. Life insurance companies even began to offer airline pilots insurance policies, albeit at extravagant rates, and many commercial travelers and government officials began using the airlines in preference to rail travel, especially for longer trips.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly in an aircraft while in office. The first aircraft obtained specifically for presidential travel was a Douglas Dolphin amphibian delivered in 1933 which was designated RD-2 by the US Navy and based at the Naval base at Anacostia D.C. The Dolphin was modified with a luxury upholstery for four passengers and a small separate sleeping compartment. The aircraft remained in service as a presidential transport from 1933 until 1939. There are no reports as to whether the president ever flew in the aircraft though. During World War II, Roosevelt traveled on the Dixie Clipper, a Pan Am-crewed Boeing 314 flying boat to the 1943 Casablanca Conference, in Morocco, a flight that covered 5,500 miles (in three "legs"). The threat from the German submarines throughout the Battle of the Atlantic made air travel the preferred method of VIP transatlantic transportation.
Under John F. Kennedy presidential air travel officially entered the jet age. He had used the Eisenhower-era jets for trips to Canada, France, Austria and the United Kingdom. However, in October 1962, the administration purchased a Boeing C-137 Stratoliner, a modified long-range 707—Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000.
A Lockheed JetStar which was used by Lyndon Johnson during his presidency is on display at the LBJ Ranch (now the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park) in Stonewall, TX. The ranch had a runway, but was too small to accommodate a large plane such as a Boeing 707. President Johnson would take the larger Air Force One to Austin, where he would transfer to the smaller JetStar for the short flight to the ranch
The Air Force had attempted a special presidential livery of their own design: a scheme in red and metallic gold, with the nation's name in block letters. Kennedy felt the aircraft appeared too regal, and, on advice from his wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, he contacted the French-born American industrial designer Raymond Loewy for help in designing a new livery and interiors for the VC-137 jet. Loewy met with the president, and his earliest research on the project took him to the National Archives, where he looked at the first printed copy of the United States Declaration of Independence, and saw the country's name set widely spaced and in upper case in a typeface called Caslon. He chose to expose the polished aluminum fuselage on the bottom side, and used two blues; a slate-blue associated with the early republic and the presidency, and a more contemporary cyan to represent the present and future. The presidential seal was added to both sides of the fuselage near the nose, a large American flag was painted on the tail, and the sides of the aircraft read "United States of America" in all capital letters. Loewy's work won immediate praise from the president and the press. The VC-137 markings were adapted for the larger VC-25 when it entered service in 1990.
SAM 26000 was in service from 1962 to 1998, serving Presidents Kennedy to Clinton. On 22 November 1963, SAM 26000 carried President Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, where it served as the backdrop as the Kennedys greeted well-wishers at Dallas' Love Field. Later that afternoon, Kennedy was assassinated, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson assumed the office of president and took the oath of office aboard SAM 26000. At Johnson's request, the plane carried Kennedy's body back to Washington. A decade later, SAM 26000 brought Johnson's own body home to Texas after his state funeral in Washington.
VC 137-1 “AIRFORCE ONE
President Lyndon B. Johnson used SAM 26000 to travel extensively domestically, and used it to visit troops in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. SAM 26000 served President Nixon on several groundbreaking overseas voyages, including his famous visit to the People's Republic of China in February 1972 and trip to the Soviet Union later that year, both firsts for an American president. Nixon dubbed the plane the "Spirit of '76" in honor of the upcoming bicentennial of the United States, and that logo was painted on both sides of the plane's nose.
SAM 26000 was replaced in December 1972 by another VC-137, Special Air Mission 27000, although SAM 26000 was kept as a backup until it was finally retired in 1998. SAM 26000 is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Richard Nixon was the first president to use SAM 27000, and the newer aircraft served every president until it was replaced by two VC-25 aircraft (SAM 28000 and 29000) in 1990.
After announcing his intention to resign the presidency, Nixon boarded SAM 27000 to travel to California. Colonel Ralph Albertazzie, then pilot of Air Force One recounted that after Gerald Ford was sworn in as president, the plane had to be redesignated as SAM 27000, indicating no president was on board the aircraft. Over Jefferson City, Missouri, Albertazzie radioed: "'Kansas City, this was Air Force One. Will you change our call sign to SAM 27000?' Back came the reply: 'Roger, SAM 27000. Good luck to the President.'"
SAM 27000's last flight as Air Force One was on 29 August 2001 when it flew President George W. Bush from San Antonio to Waco, Texas. Following the flight it was formally decommissioned then flown to San Bernardino International Airport (former Norton AFB) in California. It was later dismantled and taken to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where it was reassembled and is on permanent display.
SAM 28000 a Boeing 747 (VC-25) has been serving since Pres. George Bush, though was already in the planning during the Reagan administration.
The VC-25As are expected to be replaced, as they have become less cost-effective to operate. The USAF Air Mobility Command has been charged with looking into possible replacements, including the new Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380. On 7 January 2009, the Air Force Materiel Command, as part of its Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization Program (PAR), posted a notice to survey and identify potential suppliers of the next generation of Presidential airplane to begin service in 2017. By 28 January 2009, the deadline for responding to the survey notice, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) announced that it would not participate in the program leaving Boeing the sole possible provider with either its Boeing 747-8 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner being proposed.
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