Sunday, January 11, 2009

Presidential Trivia Question: Air Force One

As Barack Obama's inauguration approaches, the news media are paying attention to certain aspects of the presidency, such as the inner workings of the White House, and the president's Secret Service protection. This article in the January National Geographic is one example.

One part of the presidential infrastructure that tends to fascinate those of us who pay close attention to the presidency, even more than the White House itself, is Air Force One. One of my favorite presidential trivia questions involves that subject.

As you may know, "Air Force One" is not the name of an airplane. Rather, it is a radio call sign that the Air Force uses with air traffic control to designate any of its aircraft on which the president is a passenger.

The Air Force maintains two 747 aircraft for presidential use. This page on the Air Force's website gives more details.

When either of those plane flies without the president on board, it is simply called "28000" or "29000", even though it's the same plane that, under other circumstances, is called "Air Force One".

OK, all of that sets up the question: What were the circumstances of the only flight of a plane that was Air Force One when it took off, but was not Air Force One when it landed?


schiller1979 said...

Well, I can narrow it down a bit by eliminating one possible scenario! No one, while president, has ever parachuted out of a plane. However, George H.W. Bush did that, both before and after his presidency.

Anonymous said...

When Nixon resigned?

schiller1979 said...

We have a winner.

In a normal presidential transition, the outgoing president accompanies the incoming president to the Capitol, and then is flown home in one of the presidential planes, after leaving office. So, he is an ex-president for the entire flight.

However, when Nixon resigned, he left Washington for California, shortly before his resignation became effective at noon on August 9, 1974. He boarded the plane at Andrews Air Force Base as president, and left the plane in California as ex-president. The air crew kept in touch with events at the White House, and immediately stopped using the Air Force One call sign at the moment Ford took the oath of office.