The Lost Air Force One
The Very first Air Force One is, and has been for a very long time, in trouble. It is need of some TLC and fortunately it is getting some of just that. You see the very first Air Force One is a Lockheed Constellation 4 engine propeller driven aircraft named Columbine II that, in 1953 was involved an a near mid-air collision with an Eastern Airlines aircraft. Both flight had the numerical designator of 8610. Eastern Airlines flight 8610 and Air Force Flight 8610. Thus the confusion to both air traffic controllers and the pilots of these aircraft. What was so special about this particular Air Force flight was that Air Force Flight 8610 was carrying a very special passenger…President Dwight David Eisenhower.
As a result of this near national tragedy, from then on, the aircraft carrying the President of the United States would have the flight designator of Air Force One.
The Columbine II is now in Bridgewater Virginia, and is being restored by the folks at Dynamic Aviation.
And the press release from Dynamic Aviation expresses my sentiments perfectly. Lets hope that they are able to complete a full restoration to this national treasure so that future generations of Americans have a chance to experience some of America’s awesome history.
The 1948 Lockheed C-121A Constellation was the first presidential airplane to be called “Air Force One.”
Karl. D. Stoltzfus Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation and the drive behind the restoration project, says, “After extensive inspection and repairs on the aircraft we are ready to accept it, and to proceed with closing in June. Many challenges remain before we can fly it to Virginia but we are now confident that it is feasible.”
Stoltzfus’ interest lies in his desire to preserve Columbine II as a symbol of America’s integrity and that of our leaders in that era. Plans are to fly it to Bridgewater, VA for restoration and to then operate it on the air show circuit. Some very ambitious plans to take Columbine II to major anniversary celebrations for events of the 1940’s and 1950’s are under consideration.
Stoltzfus says, “People thank me for leading Dynamic in the preservation of this national treasure. However, the real credit goes to Harry Oliver and Lockie Christler, its present owners, who saw its value back in the 1990’s and did major work on it at that time. Without their dedication and their efforts to preserve it, it would most likely have been melted down long ago.”
He continues, “While Dynamic is heading up this project, it could certainly only happen with the generous participation of others. Among them is Scott Glover and his Mid America Flight Museum of Mt. Pleasant, TX. They have played a key role to this point and are dedicated to the completion of the effort. Glover and his team have provided many hours of skilled labor and support in various ways.”
No date has been set for the flight to Virginia. Present hopes are to have the aircraft fully airworthy and to fly it home as a certificated aircraft rather than on a ferry permit, which obviously extends the time needed to prepare it for flight.
Well the First Air Force One made it to Bridgewater and hopefully is well on its way to a full restoration.