You don't need to be a political powerhouse to tour an Air Force One. Just head to the Presidential Gallery at the National Museum of the US Air Force...
For decades now, the National Museum of the US Air Force has been the midwest’s premier aviation museum, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. Free to the public, the multi-hangar museum features some of the most historic aircraft to ever take flight. Our favorite part, however, has to be the Presidential Gallery in the museum’s newest 4th hangar.
I mean, come on… where else can you tour a real Air Force One?
The Presidential Gallery isn’t something new at the National Museum of the USAF. In fact, they’ve had a collection of presidential aircraft for several years. It just used to be a huge pain to get to see it. You’d have to hop a shuttle and go to a special (and overcrowded) hangar.
Now, the planes that once ferried some of our nation’s greatest leaders are on display in the main part of the museum thanks to a new building that also boasts a space shuttle and plenty of other neat exhibits.
Of the 10 or so planes on display in the William E. Boeing Presidential Gallery, 3 stand out as being particularly historic…
Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 a.k.a. “Air Force One”
Although unique and historic for many reasons, SAM 26000 is most known for playing an important role in one of America’s darkest times as it became the site of Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration following the assassination of President Kennedy. Open for tours, you can stand near the very spot where Johnson took the oath of office with Jackie Kennedy by his side before transporting President Kennedy’s body back to Washington.
Tragedy aside, the plane has plenty of historical significance. It was this plane that made “Air Force One” a real “thing.” The first jet-powered airplane built specifically for presidential use, Jackie Kennedy and Raymond Loewy designed the airplane with a blue and white motif and large lettering, a classic color scheme recognized now around the world.
SAM 26000 was also the first presidential aircraft to begin using the callsign “Air Force One” when the president was onboard.
It served a total of 8 presidents (Kennedy-Clinton) and countless other officials and dignitaries.
Douglas VC-54C “Sacred Cow”
Trivia buffs know FDR was the first president to travel by plane while in office when he took the Dixie Clipper to the Casablanca Conference. The rub, though, was the plane he took happened to be owned by the Navy. The Army Air Force felt left out and ordered a special transport plane for Roosevelt from Douglas.
The super-custom build featured a hodgepodge of parts from other planes, all strapped together. The interior was also custom-built to feature a conference room, a private bathroom for FDR, and even an electric fridge (a really big deal in 1945).
Of all its amenities, perhaps none are as fascinating as the special lift in the rear of the plane for allowing FDR to board the plane while still in his wheelchair.
Sadly, FDR only used the plane once to fly to the Yalta Conference in February of 1945. Just a couple months later, President Roosevelt passed away.
After Roosevelt, Truman used the plane extensively, and even signed a major piece of legislation, the National Security Act of 1947, while onboard. This act made the Air Force its own branch of the military, so basically, the Sacred Cow gave birth the the United States Air Force.
Douglas VC-118 “Independence”
Named for Truman’s hometown of Independence, MO, the “Independence” was the second plane built specifically for a president and served Truman from 1947 until 1953. The plane features several upgrades from the Sacred Cow like the latest in navigational equipment and engine design.
The plane’s most historic use came in 1950 when President Truman flew to meet General Douglas MacArthur at Wake Island to discuss the Korean War.
While these three planes grab your attention with their size and historical significance, each aircraft featured has a unique place in American history.
With a price tag of $0, there’s no better place in Dayton, OH to spend the day than the National Museum of the US Air Force. From the Presidential Gallery to the planes that won World War II to some of the world’s earliest aircraft, all four hangars of the museum are truly spectacular.