DAYTON, Ohio -- "Sacred Cow" elevator on display in the Presidential Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This elevator enabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enter the aircraft easily. A victim of polio and unable to walk, President Roosevelt could remain in his wheelchair and be lifted into his airplane comfortably, rather than being carried up the stairs. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Note: This aircraft is located in the Presidential Gallery on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Click here for requirements to visit this gallery.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew to the Casablanca Conference in 1943 on board a commercial Boeing 314 Clipper Ship, he became the first U.S. president to fly while in office. Concerned about relying upon commercial airlines to transport the president, the USAAF leaders ordered the conversion of a military aircraft to accommodate the special needs of the Commander in Chief.
After encountering difficulties with converting a C-87A transport, the USAAF arranged with Douglas Aircraft to construct a new transport aircraft specifically for presidential use. Nicknamed the Sacred Cow, this VC-54C became the first military aircraft to transport a U.S. president when President Roosevelt took it to the USSR for the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
The first purpose-built aircraft to fly the president of the United States, the Sacred Cow is the only VC-54C ever constructed. To an untrained eye, it looks like any other C-54, but the Sacred Cow is unique. Beginning with a C-54A fuselage and C-54B wings, Douglas made numerous modifications. For example, the ailerons are different from any B model. Furthermore, the Sacred Cow underwent extensive interior modifications. One special feature is an elevator behind the passenger cabin to lift the president in his wheelchair in and out of the plane -- an otherwise difficult procedure. The passenger compartment includes a conference room with a large desk and a bulletproof picture window.
President Roosevelt used the Sacred Cow only once before his death in April 1945; however, the Sacred Cow remained in presidential service during the first 27 months of the Truman Administration. On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board the Sacred Cow. This act established the Air Force as an independent service, making the Sacred Cow the "birthplace" of the USAF.
The USAF later assigned it to other transport duties, and the airplane was retired in October 1961. In 1983 the Sacred Cow was shipped by truck to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The monumental task of restoring the aircraft began in August 1985, and it took 10 years and more than 34,000 hours of work to complete. Appearing as it did during President Roosevelt's trip to Yalta, the Sacred Cow provides a wonderful exhibit for visitors and a superb example of the craftsmanship, skill and perseverance of the museum's Restoration Division staff and volunteers.
SPECIFICATIONS: Span: 117 ft. 6 in. Length: 93 ft. 5 in. Height: 27 ft. 7 in. Weight: 80,000 lbs. loaded Armament: None Engines: Four Pratt and Whitney R-2000 engines of 1,450 hp each Crew: Seven (plus 15 passengers) Serial number: 42-107451
PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed: 300 mph Cruising speed: 245 mph Range: 3,900 miles Service ceiling: 30,000 ft.