SEATTLE: Few will ever get close enough to take a peek inside Air Force One, but it is still possible to get a feel of how the US Commander-in-Chief flies from one destination to another.
A replica of the US president’s airborne command centre is accessible to all visitors to The Museum of Flight in Seattle.
For security reasons, the aircraft on display is not actually a copy of the version that’s flying Joe Biden around today.
Standing idle at the museum now is the jet that served presidents from Dwight D Eisenhower to Richard Nixon.
While its first priority was to fly the US president, then Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev did have the privilege of touring the US on Air Force One in September 1959.
Among other famous flights on that aircraft were Lyndon B Johnson’s trip to Dallas in November 1963 after John F Kennedy was assassinated, and Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 when he met Chairman Mao Tse Tung.
The historic visit eventually led to the formalisation of ties between the two countries.
If you expect first-class accommodation inside this aircraft, you are in for a disappointment. From the throne to the bunk bed, it is all more utilitarian than luxury. No gilded toilet seat, Mr President!
Everything seems to have been built with the sole purpose of serving the needs of the president in his official capacity, and seeing to his well-being.
Nonetheless First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, with the collaboration of designer Raymond Loewy, did add a “distinctive and dignified” touch to the jet.
The public and government found the blue and white colour scheme they introduced rather pleasing, according to information provided on the exhibit.
But The Museum of Flight is more than the retired Air Force One. Visitors get to learn the history of aviation – from man’s earliest attempts at defying gravity to the space shuttle that ferried astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station.
There is a replica of the workshop where the first planes were made – from the wooden frame to the propellers that were the most distinctive features of the early aircraft.
There is a whole section on the Apollo spacecraft that landed the first man on the moon and another on the Mars exploration, including the rover that roamed the surface of the Red Planet.
Aircraft from other countries are also featured in the museum. One is the Spitfire, which engaged in dogfights with Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Another is the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa that was used by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War Two.
A full tour of the museum to inspect every craft up close could take a visitor one whole afternoon. Nonetheless, time flies when one is in there.
For aviation enthusiasts who want to know everything about flying machines, this is the place from which to take off.