First president to fly in an airplane (before or after White House):
The first president to fly in an airplane while in office was Franklin Roosevelt. The first ex-president to fly in an airplane was Theodore Roosevelt, who flew as a passenger in a 4-minute flight in one of the early Wright biplanes on October 11, 1910, a year after he had left office.
The first president to fly in an airplane while in office
Calvin Coolidge in 1933 cannot be verified.
Picture of Coolidge with Douglas World cruiser. The legislation starting federal aviation regulation was in his term
The first President to earn a pilot’s license
He learned to fly and soloed for the first time while he was stationed in the Philippines during 1937. He received his license at Fort Lewis near Tacoma in Washington during 1939 who soloed in 1937, when he was a lieutenant colonel serving in the Philippines. But he never qualified for Army wings.
The first president to fly while in office
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
flew from Miami in Florida to Casablanca in Morocco to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1943. The Boeing Pan American Clipper Dixie Clipper flying boat took three legs and three days to carry FDR across the Atlantic Ocean to his meeting in Morocco.
The First Presidential Aircraft
A Douglas RD-2 Dolphin amphibian was the very first aircraft to be designated as a transport for the President. Although so designated between 1933 and 1939 for FDR, he never flew in it. Then during 1943 at the direction of General “Hap” Arnold the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) modified a Consolidated C-87A Liberator Express (the cargo version of the same company’s B-24 Liberator heavy bomber) for use by FDR. The special C-87A was dubbed Guess Where II. Ironically although First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used the aircraft, FDR never did fly in his C-87A either.
The first purpose-built aircraft
FDR flew was a Douglas VC-54C Skymaster named Sacred Cow. The Sacred Cow had the fuselage of a C-54A but the wings of a C-54B, offering greater fuel capacity. Other modifications to the Sacred Cow included an elevator to allow the POTUS to board the aircraft in his wheelchair, a conference room, private lavatory, hide-away bed, and later a refrigerator in the galley. President Harry S Truman (33rd President- 1945-1953) also traveled on the Sacred Cow– even signing the National Security Act of 1947 aboard the aircraft, thereby giving birth to the United States Air Force (USAF)
The last propeller-driven Presidential aircraft
Columbine III was designated Air Force One before the VC-137 entered service in 1962.
The Most Accomplished Presidential Pilot/The Only President Shot Down in Combat
President George H.W. Bush
was undoubtedly the most accomplished Presidential pilot, though he earned this accolade much earlier in life. Bush was not yet 19 years of age when he received his Navy Wings of Gold after learning to land aboard a carrier on the Great Lakes paddle-wheeler USS Sable (IX-81). He went on to pilot TBM Avenger torpedo bombers from the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30). Assigned to Torpedo Squadron FIVE ONE (VT-51) of Air Group 51, Bush flew a total of 58 combat missions, was shot down and rescued once, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation during his service in the Pacific during World War II.
The First Presidential Helicopter Flight
On July 12th 1957 President Eisenhower flew from Washington to the Presidential Retreat at Camp David in Maryland aboard a Bell H-13 Sioux (military Bell 47) helicopter. Thus began the regular use of helicopters by American Presidents. Sikorsky VH-34 and later VH-3D began operating from the South Lawn at the White House in 1957. The augmented Marine Helicopter Squadron ONE (HMX-1) has also operated Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight, Sikorsky VH-60N Seahawk, and CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters.
Air Force One Today
The current Presidential aircraft, Boeing VC-25As SAM 28000 and 29000 (modified Boeing 747-200B airliners), are the most capable Presidential aircraft ever. Boasting more than 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, the jets are equipped with the President’s office, conference room, bedroom, bathroom, gym, and other amenities. Capable of communicating with just about anyone, anywhere, anytime, the jets are also hardened against electronic interference, are equipped with all manner of countermeasures, and can fly more or less until the food runs out. A couple of newer 747-8 airframes have recently been identified as the next Presidential aircraft.
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