President Lyndon B. Johnson in the presidential bedroom aboard Air Force One (SAM 26000). From left to right are Sen. Mike Mansfield; President Johnson; Chief Master Sgt. Paul Glynn, serving president; U.S. Navy Aide Capt. Beach; and Sen. Fulbright. (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. The gallery will close until further notice beginning May 1, 2013, as part of budget reduction requirements due to sequestration.
This U.S. Air Force Boeing VC-137C aircraft (civilian designation 707-320B) was the first jet made specifically for use by the President of the United States. Built in 1962, it served many presidents over three decades, carrying heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials on many historic journeys.
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. 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. Because President Kennedy did not name his aircraft as had former presidents, the news media popularized the call sign "Air Force One" as this aircraft's name.
SAM 26000 Served Many Presidents
On Oct. 10, 1962, VC-137C number 26000 entered USAF service directly from the Boeing assembly line in Renton, Wash. President Kennedy had the aircraft painted in striking blue and white instead of the usual military colors to give it a distinctive look. The title "United States of America" was emblazoned on the fueselage and an American flag was painted on the tail. This aircraft carried eight presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton.
In December 1972 another 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. In 1990 SAM 26000 left the presidential fleet, but it continued to fly government officials, including Secretary of State James Baker. Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, he went abroad in 26000 for talks with Iraqi leaders about removing their troops from Kuwait.
36 Years of Memorable Journeys SAM 26000 flew 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. Kennedy also flew aboard SAM 26000 to Dallas, Texas, where he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 -- and it was on this airplane that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president. SAM 26000 then carried John F. Kennedy's body and President Johnson back to Washington, D.C. Johnson also used 26000 to visit U.S. troops in Vietnam during the Southeast Asia War.
Beginning in 1970, President Nixon's national security advisor, Dr. Henry Kissinger, used the aircraft for 13 trips to Paris, France, for secret meetings with the North Vietnamese. In February 1972 President Nixon flew aboard SAM 26000 on his historic "Journey for Peace" to the People's Republic of China (the first visit by an American president to China). In May 1972 SAM 26000 carried Nixon to the Soviet Union.
In October 1981 the aircraft flew Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, and former Secretary of State Dr. Kissinger to the funeral of the slain Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. In March 1983 Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom flew on SAM 26000 during her trip to the United States when she visited the West Coast.
At a nationally televised event in May 1998, the USAF retired SAM 26000 at the museum. This aircraft provided 36 years of service and accumulated more than 13,000 flying hours.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Maximum speed: 604 mph Ceiling: Above 43,000 ft. Range: 6,000+ miles Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney TF33 (JT3D-3B) turbofans of 18,000 lbs. thrust each Load: 40 passengers or 26,200 lbs. of cargo Crew: 7 or 8