A few months ago we brought you stories about the new gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Since it houses over 70 aircraft, we just gave you a brief overview, and in honor of Inauguration Day, here is some more detail on the Presidential Gallery, sponsored by Boeing. On a cold day in April 2016, some of the final planes were brought across taxiway to their new home. Here is what it looked like:
This VC-121E, Columbine III, served during President Eisenhower administration. It was parked close to VC-118, Independence, used by President Truman, and VC-54C, Sacred Cow, used and specially modified for President Roosevelt. There is a total of ten aircraft at the present time.
If you were alive when President Kenndy was assassinated on 11/22/1963, you will remember SAM 26000, the plane where President Johnson was sworn into office and it also carried President Kennedy's body back to Washington, DC. You can see where the bulkhead was cut to allow the loading of the casket on the top deck because the flight crew did not want to put it in the cargo hold. This aircraft is presently being retrofitted with LED lighting for preservation and guest comfort and will be open for walk-through tours again on 2/4/2017.
You can actually walk through many of these aircraft and get closer to history than you ever thought possible.
These aircraft represent more than 70 years of fulfilling the United States Airforce mission of dedicated presidential service. They have even planned ahead for the retirement of the present aircraft, as the main repository for aircraft retired from the presidential fleet.
Something not widely known is who takes care of these planes and how do they do it? Retired Master Sargent Danny Bowen talked to us and shared a little about how difficult it was to go home and tell his family that they would have to find out where he was by watching for the plane on TV. He also mentions that they spent lots of time cleaning and polishing because when the plane is overseas it is the symbol of the United States of America.
All of these aircraft were formerly on the other side of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where about seventy-thousand visitors could tour them annually. Now, they are open daily, with some brief exceptions for restoration and refurbishment for future generations, every day the museum is open. Effectively, every one of the approximately one million visitors to the museum can step back into, and experience these unique historical artifacts.