Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly on official business. He flew
aboard a Boeing 314 Dixie Clipper seaplane in 1943 to meet secretly with Winston
Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco. Roosevelt’s permanent aircraft, however, was a
C-54 Skymaster nicknamed the “Sacred Cow.”
After President Roosevelt’s death, President Truman replaced the presidential plane
with a C-118 Liftmaster that he named “Independence” after his home town of Independence,
Missouri. This aircraft was the first true Air Force One and it bore the image of
a bald eagle on its nosecone.
President Eisenhower then designated two planes for his official use. Both C-121
Constellations, they were named “Columbine One” and “Columbine Two.” Eisenhower
was also the first president to use the official secret service call sign, “Air Force
One,” a development made necessary by a near mid-air collision with an Eastern Airlines
plane that happened to be using the same civilian designation (8610) as the president’s
plane. Near the end of the Eisenhower presidency, the Air Force introduced jets to
the presidential fleet for the first time when it acquired three Boeing 707’s.
The history of Air Force One continues with President Kennedy who was the first
president to travel exclusively by jet. He was also the person responsible for introducing
the term “Air Force One” into the American vernacular. Kennedy liked the term so
much that he told his staff and the White House press corps to make the reference
known to the public. Also, the Air Force One color scheme of white, silver, gold,
and several shades of blue, was selected by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Boeing 707 used by Kennedy, SAM 26000, flew the president to Berlin for his famous
“Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, and it ferried him to Dallas on that fateful day in
1963. That same day, Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office on SAM 26000, becoming
our nation’s 36th president. SAM 26000 also flew President Nixon to his famous meeting
in China, and it carried Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the peace talks that
would end the Vietnam War.
SAM 26000 was replaced by another 707, SAM 27000 in the summer of 1972. This jet
would become the most famous in the world and it is the subject of this project.
SAM 27000 was used by seven presidents, although it is most closely associated with
President Reagan who flew on the aircraft more than any other president.
The history of Air Force One is rich. In 1990, two Boeing 747’s—SAM 28000 and SAM
29000—were added to the presidential fleet and are the aircraft used primarily for
Presidential travel today.