First Air Force One Set to Leave Arizona for Restoration

The Columbine II at Marana Regional Airport. | Courtesy of First Air Force One Facebook page

After languishing at a Southern Arizona airfield for years, the first aircraft to be known as Air Force One is heading to the East Coast.

As the Associated Press reported last week, the Columbine II — a 1948 Lockheed C-121 Constellation — will be flown from Marana Regional Airport to Bridgewater, Virginia, sometime in April. It's been bought by Karl Stoltzfus, the founder and chairman of Dynamic Aviation, which is headquartered in Bridgewater.

The plane once carried President Dwight Eisenhower on foreign and domestic trips. A near-collision with another plane over New York City in 1953 led to the Air Force One designation still used by presidential planes today. (Arizona Highways readers might remember it from a recent Where Is This? entry in the magazine.)

The Columbine II was sold at an Air Force auction in 1970, and it's been in various states of disrepair since then. Stoltzfus bought the plane after reading an article in 2014 about its then-owner deciding whether to scrap it or sell it. "I didn't want to see somebody drinking a beer and wonder if the beer can came from that plane," he told the AP.

Dynamic Aviation engineers have gotten the plane back in flying shape for the journey. In Virginia, restoration work will continue on the interior. Eventually, Stoltzfus plans to open it to the public at a small museum on the company's grounds, and take it to air shows.

To see updates on the plane's progress and its upcoming journey, you can follow the First Air Force One page on Facebook.

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Comments

The presidential call sign was established for security purposes during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The change stemmed from a 1953 incident where an Eastern Airlines commercial flight (8610) had the same call sign as a flight the president was on (Air Force 8610). The aircraft accidentally entered the same airspace, and after the incident the unique call sign "Air Force One" was introduced for the presidential aircraft. The first official flight of Air Force One was in 1959 during the Eisenhower administration.

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