The Washington Post

President Eisenhower had a pretty sick plane

Happy National Aviation Day! Yes, we know you had no idea it was National Aviation Day (and we know the Fix has unwittingly celebrated by writing about planes a lot). But now you can celebrate by learning all about President Eisenhower's plane, which had sweet propellers. He used two planes during his time in office -- Columbine II and Columbine III. The inaugural Columbine delivered General Eisenhower around Europe.


But Eisenhower wasn't the first president to ride in a plane; Teddy Roosevelt was.

His cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first sitting president to have a plane. He had two over the course of his presidency, the Sacred Cow and the Dixie Clipper.

Reporters got to ride with Eisenhower for the first time in August 1955. The Washington Post reported at the time that, "Meals are something from a gourmet's handbook" on the plane. "For breakfast Tuesday, Mr. Eisenhower was served filet mignon, along with orange juice, cantaloupe, melba toast and coffee, provided by the catering service of a commercial airplane. Like any plane, things can go wrong on the presidential plane. Sometime before dawn, the Columbine's pressurizing equipment designed to equalize pressure at higher altitudes went out of whack. Those aboard woke up with ears popping. The trouble was fixed promptly."

The president also used the presidential plane for pleasure. In 1957, he "flew into the warm sunshine of South Georgia today on a quest for birds and birdies." Translation: He was golfing.

The presidential plane was not referred to as Air Force One until the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Many of the planes are on display at the National Museum for the U.S. Air Force.


Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.



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Jaime Fuller · August 19, 2014

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