Lockheed VC-121E “Columbine III”
Published October 01, 2015
The aircraft on display, the only Lockheed VC-121E built, served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal airplane from 1954 until he left office in January 1961. A military version of the famous Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation commercial airliner, it has a fuselage “stretched” 18 feet longer than earlier versions. With more powerful engines, greater fuel capacity and greater speed, these aircraft were popularly known as “Super Connies.”
Eisenhower named this aircraft, his third Constellation, Columbine III, after the official state flower of Colorado in honor of his wife Mamie. An adopted daughter of that state, Mrs. Eisenhower formally christened the Columbine III on Nov. 24, 1954, with a flask of water from Colorado instead of the traditional bottle of champagne. Immediately afterward, Columbine III carried the President, the First Lady and British Field Marshall Viscount “Monty” Montgomery to Augusta, Ga., for a five-day golfing vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The aircraft’s most important mission took place in July 1955, when it flew Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Geneva, Switzerland, for the first peacetime summit between the leaders of the Western democracies and the Soviet leadership. Columbine III served as the president’s official aircraft for six years, and during this time it was also used by key U.S. government officials and foreign dignitaries for high-priority flights.
After President Eisenhower left office, the U.S. Air Force continued to use Columbine III as a VIP transport. The aircraft was retired from service in April 1966 and flown to the museum for permanent display.
Crew: Eight (plus 24 passengers)
Engines: Four Wright R-3350s of 3,400 hp each
Maximum speed: 330 mph
Range: 4,000 miles
Ceiling: 33,600 feet
Weight: 133,000 lbs (loaded)
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