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Celebrate Presidents Day by climbing aboard Air Force One

  • Published
  • By Sarah Swan
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
As Presidents Day approaches on Feb. 17, visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force have the unique opportunity to view and walk through several truly significant aircraft. The museum's Presidential Gallery is home to aircraft that carried U.S. presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt through Bill Clinton, as well as heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials, on many historic journeys.

On July 26, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act while on board the VC-54C Sacred Cow. This act established the Air Force as an independent service, making the Sacred Cow the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force. The pen used by Truman to sign that Act is displayed nearby.

Climbing a nearby flight of stairs leads visitors through Air Force One, or Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000, one of the most important aircraft in aviation history. Over its 36-year career, it served eight presidents - Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton. 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. He 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 Kennedy's body and President Johnson back to Washington, D.C. 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), and in May of that year, the aircraft carried Nixon to the Soviet Union.

Just a few steps away are the VC-118 Independence used by Truman, and the VC-121E Columbine III used by Dwight D. Eisenhower. More information about aircraft on display in the Presidential Gallery is available at

To access these aircraft, visitors must ride free shuttle buses from the main museum complex to the Presidential and Research & Development Galleries, which are located on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The museum offers two bus trips on Thursdays and Fridays and four bus trips on Saturdays and Sundays. Four additional bus trips will be offered on Monday, Feb. 17 in honor of Presidents Day.

The shuttle service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and visitors are encouraged to sign up early in the day as buses fill up quickly. A current government-issued photo ID is required for U.S. citizens over age 18, and all foreign visitors must present an original passport. Anyone under age 18 must be escorted by an adult. Shuttle buses are not handicapped accessible, and individuals requiring special assistance should contact the museum's Operations Division in advance at (937) 255-3286 to arrange transportation.

Military and Department of Defense civilians with government ID may use their private vehicle to visit the galleries from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Motorcoach tours and military reunion groups wishing to visit the galleries should contact the museum's Special Events Division at three to four weeks prior to their visit.

Additional requirements for visiting the Presidential Gallery are available at

Other resources related to the presidential aircraft collection are available online:
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day). Admission and parking are free. For more information about the museum, visit

NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, please contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.

NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, please contact Sarah Swan at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1283.