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Reagan Makes First, Last Flight in Jet He Ordered

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2004 – The blue-and-white presidential jet that brought the flag-draped coffin of former President Ronald Reagan to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on June 9 is an aircraft he ordered before he left office but this was his first ride in it.

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Army Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman escorts former first lady Nancy Reagan as former President Ronald Reagan's casket is placed aboard an Air Force VC-25 at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., June 9. Reagan's body was flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Washington, D.C., to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda June 9-11. Jackman is commander of the Military District of Washington. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon D. Gesch, USN
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Reagan ordered two identical Boeing 747s to replace the aging presidential Boeing 707s he traveled in as president. First lady Nancy Reagan designed the interior decor of the planes in a style reminiscent of the desert Southwest.

One plane was delivered shortly after Reagan left office. President George H.W. Bush, in September 1990, was the first leader to fly in one of the new planes.

The presidential air transport fleet consists of two specially configured Boeing 747-200Bs with the Air Force designation VC-25. The radio call sign "Air Force One" is used when the president is aboard either aircraft, or any other Air Force aircraft.

Special features of the aircraft include state-of-the-art navigation, electronic and communications equipment, special interior configuration and furnishing, a self-contained baggage loader, front and aft air-stairs and the capability for in-flight refueling.

The uniquely configured aircraft come with an executive suite consisting of a stateroom outfitted with a dressing room, lavatory and shower and the president's office. A combination conference/dining room is available for the president and his family and staff. Separate accommodations are provided for guests, senior staff, Secret Service and security personnel and the news media.

There are two galleys where up to 100 meals can be served at one sitting. And there's a rest area and mini-galley for the aircrew.

Comfort areas include six passenger lavatories, including access facilities for people with disabilitieds. The VC-25 also has a compartment outfitted with medical equipment and supplies for minor medical emergencies.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to be provided air transport, which began in 1944 when a C-54 Skymaster the "Sacred Cow" was put into service, according to officials at the Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews.

From 1947 to 1953, President Harry S. Truman was transported in a DC-6 "Independence' (Liftmaster). President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled aboard the "Columbine II" and "Columbine III" from 1953 to 1961.

President John F. Kennedy's VC-137, a modified Boeing 707, was the first aircraft to be popularly known as "Air Force One."

Perhaps the most widely known and most historically significant presidential aircraft is the C-137C that was specifically purchased for use as the presidential aircraft in 1962. With Tail No. 26000, the aircraft carried Kennedy to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and returned his body to Washington following his assassination.

Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office as the 36th president on board the aircraft at Love Field in Dallas. Officials said this fateful aircraft also was used to return Johnson's body to Texas following his state funeral on Jan. 24, 1973.

In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon made historic visits aboard 26000 to China and the Soviet Union.

Tail No. 26000 was retired in May 1998 and is on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

The first VC-25-A Tail No. 28000 flew as "Air Force One" on Sept. 6, 1990, when it transported President George H.W. Bush to Kansas, Florida and back to Washington.

A second VC-25-A -- Tail No. 29000 transported Presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush to Israel for the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Nov. 6, 1995.

On Feb. 6, 2004, the dedication and unveiling ceremony was held for a cornerstone for the building that will house Reagan's presidential aircraft at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

The new Air Force One Pavilion will display the Boeing 707 used by Reagan while in office. Boeing Co. is restoring it. This plane, with Tail No. 27000, flew in presidential service for 28 years. The pavilion is scheduled for completion in 2005. The cornerstone was dedicated Feb. 6, 2004, to honor Reagan on his 93rd birthday.

Powered flight was only 7 years old when Reagan was born. And on June 11, an aircraft he determined the nation needed will take him back to California for his final rest.

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Related Sites:
VC-25 "Air Force One" Fact Sheet
89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA VC-25 from the Air Force's presidential fleet sits on the flight line of Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif., awaiting the body of former President Ronald Reagan, June 9. The former president's remains were flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Washington, D.C., to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda June 9-11. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson, USN  
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