History

the first air force one

 

The First Air Force One was the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1954. As the presidential aircraft, the First Air Force One boasted an elegant interior with marble finishes.

After retiring from service with President Eisenhower, the First Air Force One soon became overlooked and would eventually spend decades practically forgotten in the Arizona desert.

In 2015 Karl Stoltzfus, Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation, purchased the aircraft in order to preserve it for future generations. The plane is the only privately-owned Air Force One in existence.

MANUFACTURER

Lockheed Burbank, California

MODEL

C-121A

DATE

1948

SERIAL NUMBER

48-610

TIMELINE

N

Lockheed constellation is produced

The push to develop the Constellation came from aviation giant Howard Hughes, whose vision for a 20-passenger transcontinental airliner was brought to life–and improved upon–by the Lockheed Company. Lockheed produced 856 Constellation aircraft from 1943 to 1958.

1943 - 1958
N

eisenhower chooses the constellation

As World War II came to a close, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower flew in a Constellation he named Columbine after his wife Mamie’s adopted home state of Colorado.

Eisenhower’s fondness for Constellation aircraft continued. When he took office in 1953, a Lockheed Constellation that he called Columbine II became the official presidential aircraft.

President Eisenhower flew approximately 63,844 miles aboard Columbine II, and his famous “Atoms for Peace” speech was written while on board.

1953
N

mid-air confusion leads to first air force one callsign

In the spring of 1954, President Eisenhower was flying over Richmond, Virginia aboard the Columbine II. The aircraft checked in with Air Traffic Control using the call sign Air Force 8610. At the same time and in the same airspace, Eastern Airlines Flight 8610 was also contacting Air Traffic control. The confusion from this incident was enough to inspire the creation of a unique call sign, Air Force One. Air Traffic Control used the name from then on whenever the president was aboard an aircraft, although Air Force One wouldn’t become the official title until 1962.

1954
N

the first air force one is auctioned

In 1970, five non-descript Constellation aircraft were sold at a government surplus auction at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. The First Air Force One was included in the lot and was purchased by businessman Mel Christler. Christler owned an aerial spraying company and planned to use the planes in his operation.

It wasn’t until 1980, after a call from the Smithsonian, that Christler finally learned of the plane’s historic significance.

1970
N

forgotten in the desert, columbine ii waits for a new owner

In 1989, Christler and his partners put great effort into restoring the aircraft and exhibited it at a number of airshows throughout the following year.

Convinced that the First Air Force One should remain in the public sphere but unable to continue the extensive upkeep and restoration needed, Christler began to search for a new owner. For the next eight years, it was stored in New Mexico until 1998 when it was moved to Arizona where it would remain for the next 20 years.

1970
N

Dynamic Aviation Buys Columbine II

In the fall of 2014, Karl Stoltzfus, Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation, happened across an article about Columbine II, a forgotten aircraft languishing in the Arizona desert. The article stated that if the plane wasn’t moved soon it would be cut up and scrapped. Stoltzfus followed the news for months, hoping someone would come forward to save it. When it was clear that no one would, he began taking steps toward buying it.

2014
N

inspecting the first air force

After completing a preliminary two-day inspection which indicated that the plane could be saved, a team from Dynamic Aviation flew to Arizona in early 2015 for a more extensive inspection.

Over the next three months, the team inspected every inch of the aircraft. They examined the engines, x-rayed the propellers, replaced fluid lines and spark plugs, cleaned and repaired the fuel injectors, scrubbed the oil tanks, and removed and inspected the tail cone.

After three months of intense work, the team was convinced that the First Air Force One could be restored and Dynamic Aviation decided to buy the plane.

2015
N

first air force one flies again

On March 21, 2016, after a year of intense labor, the First Air Force One once more took to the skies in its first flight since 2003. The plane performed beautifully and landed at Dynamic Aviation on March 23.

2016

the first air force one