MY EXPERIENCE ONBOARD AIRFORCE ONE
Well practically it's Airforce One but it's retired.
I managed to check out the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley during my stay in Los Angeles. Located about 1.5 hours away from the City of Los Angeles, the drive on the way was beautiful and there were much photography opportunities. Beautiful mountain and countryside view.
This is a mock up of the oval office during Reagan's time.
The visit was purely by chance. I did a last minute research on where to go the night before and discovered this attraction. Personally, i am always interested in the lives of political office holders, their journey before taking office, their legacy and their personal stories outside office. Particularly of course, in this case, the president's mode of transport. Armoured Limousine, Private Jet, Private Chopper. I mean that's the dream life isn't?
For someone who haven't live thru reagan's era, this place was indeed very interesting, enriching and educational.
I am usually not a museum guy and i would just go to the particular section of the exhibition that i am interested in and move on.
But i spent over 2 hours at this museum looking many interesting stories he had.
Reagan was well known for being an actor turned president, his involvement in the cold war, berlin wall and his special relationship with Gorbachev. There were also interesting exhibits like the mock up of the oval office & the actual attire that reagan was in during the assassination attempt (with the bullet holes).
That aside, i would strongly encourage you to drop by the Presidential Library if you ever come to Los Angeles. You won't regret. Trust me!
Back to the main attraction, none other than the legendary Air Force One and Marine One.
AIR FORCE ONE
Technically, Air Force One is a callsign rather than an aircraft model name. It uses the call sign Air Force One when the President is on board, and at other times it uses the call sign SAM 27000 with SAM indicating "Special Air Mission".
SAM 27000 was one of the two Boeing VC-137C United States Air Force aircraft that were specifically configured and maintained for the use of the President of the United States.
The plane first entered service in 1972 during the administration of Richard Nixon and continued to served six other presidents in its twenty-nine years of service: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
In 1990, it was replaced as the primary presidential plane by two Boeing VC-25 jumbo jets — SAM 28000 and SAM 29000 and has been in service till date. I long for the day when the current SAM 28000/29000 be decommissioned and sent to a presidential library. I reckon maybe 10 years from now? Hehe...
Starting the whole journey to the doors of SAM 27000 is the wall of facts and the number of miles, destinations and purpose of where reagan flown per year while he's in office.
In fact, Ronald Reagan was SAM 27000's most frequent flyer, flying longer and farther than all the other presidents who flew on it, traveling more than 675,000 miles aboard it. That's a huge chunk of frequent flyer miles! If that's applicable.
Reagan used SAM 27000 to travel to all parts of the world to pursue his ambitious diplomatic goals, taking three trips to Asia, six to Europe, and twelve trips to foreign places in the Western Hemisphere. Reagan flew to three of his four summit meetings with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev aboard SAM 27000: Geneva, Reykjavík, and Moscow (one was held in Washington, D.C.)
Here we have a overview map of the SAM 27000. My heart pounds harder as i approach the doors of SAM 27000.
But the journey of transporting this aircraft is really tough from what i can imagine.
As the presidential library is located on high grounds with the curvy s-course road, it was proven to be a challenge in transportinf something this heavy and long up the hills.
Job isn't done on top. There were many difficulties & challenges faced during renovation period and having to elevate the plane off the ground.
If i could remember, there was an incident during the renovation period. I think the landing gear/support pillars gave way and the plane lost it's grip. The workers around the plane ran away from the plane fearing that the whole aircraft could topple on them but fortunately it didn't happen. It must be Reagan's blessing and to think of it, if it really happens, we may not be able to see this piece of history.
This location is also opened for private events. Lovely location for a wedding isn't?
Right at the doors of SAM 27000, there is the "free"photography service like any other tourist spots. But if you like a high quality softcopy or printed copy, you have to pay of course.
Quite a nice frame design but unfortunately i think i look bad in the photos plus the price is a little steep hence i skipped.
Once onboard, we see this magnificent masterpiece of aviation. It was during the era where flight engineers are required in the flight deck. The sights of the million buttons and analog dials reminds aviation geeks how the industry has progressed over the years.
Right behind the cockpit is the communication center. Believed to be able to communicate the ground when reagan is onboard.
Reagan's flying oval office. This space double up as his private living quarters too. I believe that's a foldable bed.
Ms Reagan gets a nice little living quarters and office space too!
State Room 1 & 2 where the president and first lady private quarters are located. By today's standards, these are old & dull furnishing but these were the luxury back then in the 70s.
Right beside the room, the presidential plane crew and the familiar walkway you see in huge private jets.
Right behind the private quarters is the space for Chief of Staffs and other Cabinet/Senior Officials.
Cabinet meeting was also conducted here. There were also some document exhibits of Mr Reagan's trip to China back in year 1984. I wasn't even born at that time.
Moving on behind is the seats for white house staffers such as Press Secretary, Military Aide & Doctor.
In 1986, Mr. Chealander was selected as Military Aide to President Ronald Reagan. In this capacity, he performed a variety of ceremonial and emergency preparedness duties, including custody of the President’s emergency briefcase, “the football.”
He commits significant time to the Reagan Presidential Library. Most noteworthy was the procurement of and his participation in the dedication ceremony of this Boeing 707 on display. I guess his wax display onboard was a form of appreciation for his efforts.
Sidetracking, the nuclear football briefcase is another interesting thing. Here's a video on youtube to briefly explain what this football bag is.
Moving forward, there were more seats for staffs, guest and official photographers.
Seems comfortable just like the first class in the olden days!
Here's the three seaters for Security & US Air-force Team.
In the aft gallery is where the kitchen is. They prepare meals for staff, guests & press. There's another fwd gallery beside the president's office. It's said that chocolate cake is Reagan's favourite and he would celebrate birthdays of guests & staffs onboard.
Marine One is the call sign of any United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President of the United States. The first use of helicopters for transporting the President was in 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled on a Bell UH-13J Sioux. The President needed a quick way to reach his summer home in Pennsylvania, as Air Force One could not land at the White House or the summer home. Eisenhower instructed his staff to look into alternative modes of transportation and a Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse helicopter was commissioned.
Not long after the mode of presidential transport was introduced, presidential aides asked the Marine Corps to look into the White House South Lawn as a helicopter landing zone. Ample room was present, and the protocol was established.
Marine One is sometimes the preferred alternative to motorcades, which can be expensive and logistically difficult. The controlled environment of a helicopter is also felt to add a safety factor.
As a security measure, Marine One always flies in a group of as many as five identical helicopters. One helicopter carries the President, while the others serve as decoys. Upon take-off these helicopters shift in formation to obscure the location of the President.
Marine One is also equipped with standard military anti-missile countermeasures such as flares to counter heat-seeking missiles and chaff to counter radar-guided missiles, as well as AN/ALQ-144A infrared countermeasures.
Cockpit of Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King.
It was a surreal feeling with images of president onboard playing in my mind.
Marine One is met on the ground by at least one Marine in full dress uniform.
Here's a picture of the seat nearest to the doors. My guess is that the marine soldier will be seated here and will performing the role of the crew.
Not forgetting the signature salute to the president when he enters and exits the chopper.
As i am writing this post, i couldn't be more thankful that i visited the Reagan's Presidential Library. I guess it got to be the coolest one around with the former Air Force One. & Marine One.
Can't wait to see the current Boeing VC-25A in the next few years as new Presidential Jet is underway.
P.S you need to add this library to your bucket list!