By Jim Bucher
50 years ago a vibrant, young president was campaigning through the state of Texas as part of his re-election efforts.
As Air Force One (SAM 26000) hopped from city to city carrying John F. Kennedy and his wife, First Lady Jackie, the crowds greeted them with open arms and the future looked bright. Who would have guessed that same aircraft soon would transport his lifeless body back to Washington D.C. for burial after his assassination in Dallas, Texas.
Now that very plane is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the AF Museum if you will.
Dr. Jeff Underwood, NMUSAF Historian says, it’s more than just an Air Force artifact.
“It’s a national treasure, and we at the National Museum of the United States Air Force are honored to be trusted with its care and exhibition” states Underwood.
In 1974 it became a back-up plane for the sitting president, and was eventually retired and flown to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 20, 1998 for display.
According to Dr. Underwood, “The arrival of President Kennedy’s Air Force One brought national and international media attention to the National Museum of the United States Air Force and to Dayton, Ohio.”
To access the aircraft, visitors must ride shuttle buses from the main museum complex to the Presidential Gallery, which is located on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Visitors can board the plane, see where space was carved out to hold Kennedy’s casket and stand where Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States.
Ground will be broken in 2014 for the expansion of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. A new fourth hangar will be built and all of the Presidential aircraft will be moved to this hangar for every visitor to the museum to enjoy.
If you can’t make it out for a visit, you can in the ‘comfort of your own phone.’
Visitors explore “behind the scenes” of the aircraft through 15 high-definition panoramic interior photos.
Please Note: The Dayton CVB has compensated me to share my thoughts on Kennedy's Air Force One.