QUESTION: Why doesn’t President Obama act like his predecessors by having informal conversations with the news media? On long flights they would all go to the back of the plane for friendly bantering with the press.
ANSWER: It is not Obama’s fault. Many President’s had these off-the-record or background chats with the understanding they would not be directly quoted. The press always knew Reagan was coming to visit them because the Secret Service would open the door and an orange would be treated like a bowling ball and roll down the center aisle.
In recent years a few members of the media refused to agree to these rules, and recorded everything. The chats ended for everyone, and now the President conducts formal press briefings or individual interviews.
QUESTION: Who was the first President to fly? Does the First Lady always use one of the Boeing 747’s which are often designated as Air Force One? When did we first start referring to Air Force One?
ANSWER: The modern age of presidential air travel was inaugurated by Franklin Roosevelt when he attended the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. He traveled on a commercial Boeing 314 Clipper Ship. This was the first time a U.S. president flew. He took a plane to the 1932 Democratic convention in Chicago, but was not in office at that time. FDR traveled 544,000 miles by railroad during his presidency.
After Casablanca, the Air Force had a special Douglas C-54 built for presidential travel. FDR used it only once, but it remained in service during the first 27 months of the Truman Administration. On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board this plane. The act established the Air Force as an independent service, making the plane the “birthplace” of the USAF. It is now on display at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
When traveling alone, the First Lady does not use a 747. This was demonstrated this weekend. The Senate passed the food safety bill tonight and they resume debate on the START Treaty tomorrow. The President will remain at the White House while the Senate is in session.
His family left yesterday for Hawaii on “a small executive jet.” They did not use a larger plane due to criticism the First Lady encountered because of her vacation in Spain.
The designation Air Force One was first used in 1953 when a commercial plane mistakenly entered the flight path of the presidential aircraft. During the 1950s, the call sign of the presidential aircraft was the prefix SAM (Special Air Mission) followed by the aircraft’s tail number. The name “Air Force One” was later chosen to ensure there was no question as to where the president’s aircraft was and whether the president was aboard.
Unlike FDR, Truman and Eisenhower, President Kennedy did not name his aircraft. The news media popularized the call sign “Air Force One” as the aircraft’s name, and it has stuck ever since.