Visit to a Presidental plane VC-121A – Columbine
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential aircraft.
VC-121 Columbine II Air Force One.
The presidential call sign was established for security purposes during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The change stemmed from a 1953 incident where an Eastern Airlines commercial flight (8610) had the same call sign as a flight the president was on (Air Force 8610). The aircraft accidentally entered the same airspace, and after the incident the unique call sign “Air Force One” was introduced for the presidential aircraft.
Eisenhower also introduced four other propeller aircraft, the Lockheed C-121 Constellations (VC-121E) to presidential service. These aircraft were named Columbine II and Columbine III by Mamie Eisenhower after the columbine, the official state flower of Colorado, her adopted home state. Two Aero Commanders were also added to the fleet and earned the distinction of being the smallest planes ever to serve as Air Force One. President Eisenhower also upgraded Air Force One’s technology by adding an air-to-ground telephone and an air-to-ground teletype machine. Towards the end of Eisenhower’s term in 1958, the Air Force added three Boeing 707 jets (as VC-137s designated SAM 970, 971, and 972), into the fleet. Eisenhower became the first president to use the VC-137 during his “Flight to Peace” Goodwill tour, from 3 December through 22 December 1959. He visited 11 Asian nations, flying 22,000 miles (35,000 km) in 19 days, about twice as fast as he would have on Columbine.
S/N 48-610 named *Colombine II* while used by President-elect Eisenhower in 1952. Leased to Pan Am as N9907F, then N9007E where it was transferred to govt of Thailand. Returned to USAF Jun 1955. Retired from USAF Apr 1968. To Christler Flying Serivice as N9463. Now registered to Columbine II of Santa Fe, NM, where it has been parked since 1998 when it returned from an unsuccessful sale at auction at Scottsdale, Arizona.
* Current registration – N9463
* Delivered to USAF November 1948 as C-121A 48-610
* Bailed to Lockheed Air Service for flights between MacArthur Field, NY and Keflavik, Iceland from January to November 1949
* To Lockheed, Burbank for conversion to a VC-121A in November 1949
* To 1254 ATS(SM) at Washington National Airport for VIP missions in February 1950
* Presidential aircraft “Columbine II” from November 1952 to November 1954 when replaced by VC-121E 53-7885
* Used as backup presidential aircraft until May 1955
* Operated by Pan American as N9907F “Clipper Fortuna” on special assignment to the Government of Thailand from May to June 1955
* Returned to the 1254 ATW/89 MAW and flew VIP missions for the remainder of its USAF career
* Retired by USAF and flown to Davis Monthan AFB for storage April 1968
* One of five VC-121A’s sold to Christler Flying Service at DoD auction on May 5, 1970
* Registered N9463 on July 10, 1970 but never converted to an agricultural sprayer. Used as a source of spares for Christler’s other four aircraft
* Stripped of all useful spare parts and derelict at Desert Air Inc by the early 1980′s
* Moved to Allied Aircraft yard by January 1984 and back on nosewheel by February 1987
* Using parts from sister-ship N608AS, restored to flying condition by Mel Christler and Harry Oliver in 1989-90
* To “Columbine II Corporation” in January 1990 and made its first post-restoration flight on April 5, 1990
* Flew limited US air show circuit in 1990-91
* Stored at Santa Fe, NM until October 1998 when flown to Scottsdale, AZ and offered at auction for $1.5M
* No acceptable bids were received and aircraft returned to Santa Fe
* Flown to Avra Valley Airport near Tucson on May 4, 2003
* Advertised for sale in May 2005 for $3.2M
* Stored stored at Northwest Marana Regional Airport (Avra Valley Airport) in good condition September 2008
While sitting in the pilots seat..I wondered to myself who flew this wonderful aircraft and who had rank enough to be a Presidental pilot!!??
For a nice read…
About Lt. Col. Wiliiam Draper