The 1st Air Force One grounded in Marana
Eisenhower's plane is sitting at Marana's airport waiting. Owners hope a museum or investors will rescue it.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
MARANA, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Air Force One is one of the most impressive symbols of America and our President. So why is the first plane to carry the name baking on the edge of the Marana airport?
The aircraft was Dwight Eisenhower's Presidential Plane. His wife Mamie named the Lockheed Constellation "Columbine" but the Air Force called it the first Air Force One.
Here's how this airplane acquired the call sign of Air Force One. The Air Force had simply used its tail number as its radio ID so it was "Air Force 8610". But one day, "Air Force 8610" was in the air and so was "Eastern Airlines 8610". That kind of confusion was just too unsafe for the military to bear so they came up with the call sign, "Air Force One".
Timothy Coons says, "If airplanes could talk, this would be the first one that will."
He cares for the plane. He and the people who own it would love to see it in a museum, or better yet, flying again.
He says, "If I had a crew of 30 people on this thing, we'd get it flying in a month."
People who love planes think the Constellation is one of the loveliest. Our cameras caught it flying into Ryan Airfield 13 years ago.
Like today's Air Force One, the plane was part of pop culture.
On the old TV game show "What's My Line", the plane's pilot was careful when asked if Eisenhower, who had some pilot training, ever used it on Air Force One.
Host John Daly asked Lt. Col. William Draper: "Does he come up in the cockpit and handle the controls once in awhile, for instance?"
Col William Draper said, "Yes. I will just say that he's a wonderful passenger."
Franklin Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to have a plane assigned to him. It was unofficially, and irreverently called, "The Sacred Cow".
Harry Truman used a military version of the DC-6 called the "Independence".
Eisenhower flew on three Lockheed Constellations named Columbine. Pima Air and Space Museum has Columbine One which he used as a General commanding Allied Forces in Europe in the early days of the Cold War.
He used Columbine Three later in his Presidency. It is a bigger, more powerful Super Constellation. That plane is in the Air Force Museum.
Columbine Two, the plane in Marana, has come back from near death before. The Air Force sold it as surplus. Eisenhower's plane was providing parts for other Constellations when the Smithsonian told the owners about the plane's history. They put it back together and flew it on the air show circuit until economics brought it down and left it in the sun in Marana.
Now the owners are hoping an angel will help the first Air Force One fly again---with the money required to get her in shape.