After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Being Saved: Restoration of the Original ‘Air Force One’

Posted on February 11, 2015
Filed Under Government, Technology | 1 Comment

Our colleague at Encore Technical Resources, Dennis Owen, knows a good story when he sees one. Hence, he’s passed along the tale of the first Air Force One, the aircraft used by President Dwight Eisenhower, which is now languishing in faded glory at an Arizona airport. Mary Jean Eisenhower, Ike’s granddaughter, thinks it deserves better, and so it does, for it’s a national treasure. Fortunately, Mary Jean’s close to bringing about the plane’s salvation.

Who doesn’t perk up a bit on hearing that Air Force One is carrying the President of the United States on a leadership mission somewhere in the world? Well, the first Air Force I, a sleek, silvery Lockheed Constellation VC-121 named Columbine II, initially had mere call letters, but it once nearly got mixed up with a commercial plane with the same designation. “After that,” Mary Jean notes, “any aircraft with the president onboard was designated Air Force One, no call letters.”

Placed in White House service in 1954, Columbine II’s last flight was in 1959. When the Eisenhower Administration ended in 1960, it was, first, returned to the Air Force fleet, then sold as part of a group of five planes that were intended for use as crop dusters in Arizona. But somebody from the Smithsonian went looking for it and it’s been the beneficiary of good, increasingly encouraging intentions, ever since.

Fairly confidently, Mary Jean Eisenhower notes that Columbine II is now destined for restoration to flying condition and a home at the National Airline Museum in Kansas City. May that prove so, for the original Air Force I is part of our nation’s history. As Columbine II, it carried President-elect Eisenhower to Korea to fulfill a campaign pledge that he would go there to seek to end the Korean War. And Queen Elizabeth II was one of its last passengers.

Why the name Columbine? Well, Ike’s granddaughter recalls, that was the name of the plane that General Eisenhower used in World War II; it, and all the other aircraft he used then, were named Columbine, after the state flower of Colorado. That was because his wife, Mamie, was from Denver. President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech was written aboard Columbine II. And his granddaughter knows where the silverware and china that were used on the plane are located.

The public can help in the plane’s restoration by visiting its website at The goal is to have it ready for flights again by the end of this year.

The great insight from this tale is that everything of value worth remembering or restoring has a story, a history we want to hold on to, not leave languishing somewhere in a desert of the mind. – Doug Bedell


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1 Comment so far
  1. Robert M Clarke March 31, 2016 6:35 pm

    Col. James Toomey, USAAF, USAF, ret. was pilot of the first Air Force One. Col. Toomey grew up on a little island in Rhode Island, Jamestown, with a pop. Of about 2,000.

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