Climb aboard Air Force One at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum’s Presidential Gallery features 10 historical aircraft representing more than 70 years of dedicated presidential service. Visitors can walk through four of the aircraft, including those that carried U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt through Bill Clinton.
Presidential aircraft featured at the museum include the VC-54C Sacred Cow, which was first used by President Roosevelt in 1945. The aircraft features a one-of-a-kind battery-powered elevator that was installed at the rear of the aircraft so that Roosevelt could board it easily while in his wheelchair. This aircraft was also the location where President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act on July 26, 1947, establishing the Air Force as an independent service. The pen used by Truman to sign the Act is displayed nearby.
Another popular presidential aircraft on display is the VC-118, which was the second aircraft built specifically to transport the President. A military version of the Douglas DC-6 commercial airliner, it was used by President Truman from 1947 to 1953. At the suggestion of the aircraft’s pilot, Truman named it The Independence in recognition of his hometown of Independence, MO.
Climbing a nearby flight of stairs leads visitors through the only Lockheed VC-121E ever built, which served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal airplane from 1954 until he left office in January 1961. A military version of the famous Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation commercial airliner, its fuselage “stretched” 18 feet longer than earlier versions, and with more powerful engines, greater fuel capacity and greater speed, these aircraft became popularly known as “Super Connies.” Eisenhower named this aircraft, his third Constellation, Columbine III, after the official state flower of Colorado in honor of his wife Mamie.
Finally, visitors can walk through one of the most important aircraft in aviation history – Air Force One (SAM 26000). Over its 36-year career, it served eight presidents – Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. However, the aircraft is most widely known for flying President Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, where he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 – and it was on this airplane that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president. SAM 26000 then carried Kennedy’s body and President Johnson back to Washington, D.C.
For more information about these and six other Presidential Gallery aircraft on display, click here.
Other resources related to the presidential aircraft collection are available online:
- Fifteen high-definition panoramic interior photos of SAM 26000
- An interview with former Presidential Flight Steward
- Former Air Force One crewman speaks about his experiences
- Interview with former White House pool reporter
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.