First 'Air Force One' To Be Retired
By Jamie McIntyre/CNN
ANDREW AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (March 18) -- The first jet to be designated "Air Force One" is being retired later this year, heading for a museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
The Air Force Boeing 707 with tail number 26000 has a storied past. It was state-of-the-art when it became President John F. Kennedy's plane in 1962.
Over the span of three and a half decades it served seven presidents, but it is most remembered for the somber last flight it gave its first chief, in November 1963.
"This is the airplane that flew President Kennedy to Texas and flew his body back to Washington ... after the body being placed aboard, President Johnson was sworn in as president of the United States," remembers Joe Chappell, retired Chief Master Sergeant.
Explaining that the plane's bulkhead was easily removed, Chappell said, "The crew didn't want President Kennedy's casket to travel in the cargo hold, so they made room for it in the passenger compartment. We removed the seats, two rows of seats ..."
The historic aircraft, only called Air Force One when the president is on board, took Kennedy to Berlin in 1963, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Paris in 1970 for secret talks with the North Vietnamese and President Richard Nixon to China in 1972.
This year, in what could have been its last duty as Air Force One, it rescued President Bill Clinton when his jumbo jet got stuck in the mud in Illinois.
And it even took celebrated ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky to Europe on her last trip with Defense Secretary William Cohen.
The venerable aircraft has logged more han 13,000 flying hours, and million of miles carrying not just presidents, but cabinet secretaries, congressional delegations and heads of state.
In 1981 it carried former Presidents Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to the funeral for Egypt's Anwar Sadat. But the prime stateroom was commandeered by Secretary of State Al Haig, because he was the official representive of President Ronald Reagan.
Retired Chief Master Sergeant Stan Goodwin was radio operator on that memorable flight. "It was one and only time that I'd seen three president and two secretaries of state standing in line to go to the men's room," Goodwin recalled.
What do folks like to do when they are on Air Force One? Why, use the phone to call friends and brag, like the time unsuccessful presidential candidate Humbert Humphrey was given a lift by President Nixon.
"He came on board. The president allowed him to sit in the president's seat, and he made 150 telephone calls between Minnesota and Washington, D.C., to tell people he finally made it on Air Force One, and he finally made it to the president's chair," Goodwin said.
Next May this workhorse of the presidential fleet will make it last flight, to the Air Force museum in Ohio, where it take its well-earned place in aviation history.
Goodwin said, "We made a lot of progress and have done a lot of good ... but there are sad memories bestowed on this airplane; hopefully we will not have that happen in the future."