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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Presidential Hanger at Wright Patterson National Air Force Museum

Only a few hundred people a day have the opportunity to view the Presidential Hanger and Restoration area at the Wright Patterson National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. In fact, you have to arrive quite early to reserve a seat, and when you do, you’ll attend a briefing about procedures and time limits, of which the most important is never taking photographs on the bus in the restricted areas. You will have 45 minutes, no less and no more, to take the tour. It’s not enough time if you ask me. You might have to take three tours just to see the entire area. Although, I was filming and reading the plaques, so it took me a bit longer.

These are the few airplanes and aircraft I was able to see, but there is a virtual tour available on the National Museum of the Air Force which is wonderful if you have a fast internet connection. It took me several days to compile my footage and information on the presidential hanger, so please excuse the missing Monday Ground Up. All of the video footage is mine. Filming inside the planes was a great challenge as the aisles are only 17 inches wide due to the glass enclosures. The majority of the photos were taken with a video camera so please forgive me for the resolution. There’s special lighting inside the hanger for preservation purposes.

Roosevelt’s Douglas VC-54C “Sacred Cow”

Presidential Hanger 1-1 Presidential Hanger 1-2

Presidentil Hanger1

 The C-54 Skymaster was built for President Roosevelt in 1944 and was called the Sacred Cow. The name Sacred Cow was bestowed upon on the C-54 by the ground crew because of the restrictive nature during the war. Any person without access to the plane would refer to it as the “sacred cow”.  White House Press gained knowledge of the term and started using it in their writings about the president. It was never an official name and the press actually discouraged its use, however it became a sign of loyalty and admiration, so most individuals referred to it as the “sacred cow” even still.

Roosevelt's wheelchair
The various modifications made to the exterior of the aircraft made it the first purpose-built presidential plane. A victim of polio, a special elevator was created for FDR behind the passenger cabin to lift him in and out of the aircraft. Roosevelt traveled in the C-54 only once to Yalta in the USSR in 1945 for an international wartime conference.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt died, the Sacred Cow remained in service for 27 months during the Truman administration. In 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board. This act established the Air Force as an independent service of the armed forces. Therefore, the Sacred Cow became the “birthplace” of the US Air Force.

SAM 26000

Pres 2 SAM 26000
Seal Presidential Hanger 2

 The U.S. Air Force Boeing VC-137C aircraft took me close to 20 minutes to go through, as I stopped at every nook and cranny to take a gander at the furnishings. The Boeing VC-137C aircraft was the first jet made specifically for use by the President of the United States. Popularly known as "SAM 26000" (Special Air Mission; tail number 26000), the aircraft has also been called "Air Force One" -- though this designation was used officially only when the president was aboard. SAM 26000, built in 1962, has carried the world’s most esteemed presidents, heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials, on many historic journeys.


During the 1950s, the call sign of the presidential aircraft was the prefix SAM followed by the aircraft's tail number, and the name "Air Force One" was later chosen to ensure there was no question as to where the president's aircraft was and whether the president was aboard. This aircraft carried eight presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. N 1972, the Boeing 707-320 aircraft 27000 became the primary presidential aircraft and 26000 became a back-up, flying vice presidents and other high-ranking government officials.

Most memorable flights

  • SAM 26000 carried President Kennedy to Berlin in 1963, where he declared to West Berliners, "Ich bin ein Berliner," assuring them of continuing United States support in the face of Communist threats and the construction of the Berlin Wall.
  • In 1990, prior to the Gulf War, Secretary of State James Baker went abroad for talks with Iraqi leaders about removing their troops from Kuwai.
  • SAM 26000 flew Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, where he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president aboard SAM26000.
  • SAM 26000 carried John F. Kennedy's body and President Johnson back to Washington, D.C.
  • President Johnson used SAM 26000 to visit U.S. troops in Vietnam during the Southeast Asia War.

Lockheed VC-140B Jetstar

 Presidential Hanger 3The C-140 Jet Star was first flown on Sept. 4, 1957, only 241 days after design completion. Production began in 1960. The USAF bought 16 Jet Stars as C-140As and Bs, the first of which was delivered in late 1961.

“Five C-140As were assigned to the Air Force Communications Command for use in evaluating military navigation aids and operations. Eleven C-140Bs were assigned to the Military Airlift Command for operational support airlift. Six of them were flown as VC-140Bs on special government and White House airlift missions by the 89th Military Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md”.

I didn’t actually get to tour the VC-140B on display, but it has quite a rich history even though it was never the primary presidential aircraft. The VC-140B aircraft carried Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Whenever the President was aboard, it flew under the radio call sign Air Force One.

Harry Truman’s C-118 Independence

Independence C-118 Independence C-118 Truman

Douglas Aircraft  began building Harry Truman’s C-118 Independence  in 1947 as an American Airlines DC-6. The Air Force and White House were demanding a replacement for President Roosevelt’s C-54 Sacred Cow. The name Independence was coined by Sacred Cow pilot Lieutenant Colonel Henry Myers. The name, of course, represents Truman’s hometown of Independence, Missouri, and the patriotism of the United States. The plane’s most historic flight occurred when it carried President Truman to Wake Island in October 1950 to discuss the Korean situation with Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“Beginning in 1951, the USAF purchased 165 C-118A “Liftmasters” that were about six feet longer than the Independence. C-118As played a key role in “Operation Safe Haven” when 14,000 Hungarian refugees were airlifted to the United States in 1956-1957 {1}.

Lockheed VC-121E “Columbine III”


One of my favorite aircraft in the presidential hanger at Wright Patterson was the VC-121E, which was President Dwight Eisenhower’s personal airplane between 1954 and 1961. Eisenhower’s better half  christened it Columbine III in honor of the official flower of Colorado, her adopted home state, in ceremonies on Nov. 24, 1954. The VC-121E Columbine III served as the presidential aircraft until President Eisenhower left office in January 1961. It remained in service transporting government officials and visiting foreign dignitaries throughout the world until it was retired to the museum in 1966.

U-4B Aero Commander

U-4B Aero Commander (1) President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the U-4B from 1956 to 1960 for short trips. In fact, it was the smallest Air Force One, and the first presidential aircraft to have only two engines. The U-4B was also the first presidential aircraft to carry the familiar blue and white paint scheme.

 After President Eisenhower left office in 1961 the aircraft was used for transporting high-ranking government officials. In  1969, it was transferred to the Air Force Academy, where it was used for cadet parachute training and the Academy’s skydiving team. In November 1977 the U-4B was sent to the Nebraska Civil Air Patrol. It was obtained by the museum from a private owner in 1996.

Beech C-45H Expeditor

BEECH C-45 The C-45 was the World War II military version of the popular Beechcraft Model 18 commercial light transport.
A total of 4,526 of these aircraft were built by Beech during World War. There were four versions including the AT-7 Navigator navigation trainer, the AT-11 Kansan bombing-gunnery trainer, the C-45 Expeditor utility transport and the F-2 for aerial photography and mapping.

The AT-7 and AT-11 versions were well-known to WWII navigators and bombardiers, for most of these men received their training in these aircraft. Thousands of AAF pilot cadets also were given advanced training in twin-engine Beech airplanes.

Bell Helicopter XV-3: World’s First Successful Tilt Rotor Aircraft

Tilt Roller Aircraft One of my last stops on the presidential hanger tour, before I was conveniently escorted to the bus, was the Bell XV-3. The Bell XV-3 was the product of a 1951 joint U.S. Air Force-U.S. Army initiative, becoming world's first successful vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) tilt-rotor aircraft.

By combining the vertical takeoff and hovering capabilities of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft, the XV-3 offered great military potential, but it never went beyond the testing phase.


American Helicopter Co. XH-26 Jet Jeep

American Helicopter Co. XH-26 Jet Jeep (1)

In 1951, the U.S. Air Force initiated the development of a one-man, pulsejet-driven helicopter for observation, liaison and reconnaissance purposes. This aircraft was collapsible and unarmed, and capable of aerial delivery to troops in rugged terrain, and assembled quickly with simple tools. The American Helicopter Division of the Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corp. won the design competition and produced the rugged and uncomplicated Model XA-8. Under the military designation XH-26, the aircraft first flew in January 1952.

Also check out:

Strategic missiles at The National Museum of the United States Air Force

Tourists fly in from all around the world to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force and who could blame them. The museum is completely free, only taking donations if you’re willing to spare a cent, and all this for a weeks worth of military history. It took me several days to walk the museum, spending most of my time with the Planes from WWI and aircraft from WW2. One of my favorite hangers in the museum is the space gallery, and the focal point is a round room featuring massive strategic missiles. Read More: Ballistic Missiles at Wright Patterson Air Force Base

Caesar’s Creek Ordovician Fossil Hunting

When I was a child growing up in Ohio, my class would take yearly fieldtrips to the Caesar’s Creek Spill off to go fossil hunting. As a child, it was hard to stay focused on the task at hand. We would never read the signs stating we had to leave behind the fossils bigger than our palms, and now that I’m older, I can appreciate why the signs were posted. Read more: Caesar’s Creek Ordovician Fossil Hunting

Shoo Shoo Baby: B17G At Wright Patterson Air Force Base

So before I start sharing, I wanted to start off the Wright Patterson Air Force Base Series with the Shoo Shoo Baby B-17G. For those of you plane and aircraft enthusiasts, you already know the B17G Flying Fortress was one of the most famous airplanes ever built. The B17G prototype first flew on June 28, 1935, yet few of the B-17 flying fortresses were flying prior to the United States’ entrance into World War II. Read more:Shoo Shoo Baby: B17G At Wright Patterson Air Force Base Sources

  • C-140 Jetstar info
  • Lockheed VC-121E “Columbine III” info
  • U-4B Aero Commander info
  • Beech C-45H Expeditor info
  • American Helicopter Co. XH-26 Jet Jeep info


achong said...

History is my favourite subject when i was student. Yes, find this blog is happy for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the information, Lauren!

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