DAYTON, Ohio — On Nov. 22, the world will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of the most historic artifacts associated with that fateful day is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000, Kennedy’s Air Force One, is exhibited in the museum’s Presidential Gallery. He flew aboard SAM 26000 to Dallas, where he was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 — and it was on this airplane that Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new president. SAM 26000 then carried Kennedy’s body and Johnson back to Washington, D.C.
According to museum historian Dr. Jeff Underwood, SAM 26000 is one of the most important aircraft in aviation history.
“When visitors walk through this aircraft, they have the opportunity to be in one of the most historic places on earth,” Underwood said. “They can stand in a place that shaped American history.”
This U.S. Air Force Boeing VC-137C aircraft was the first jet made specifically for use by the President of the United States. Built in 1962, this aircraft carried eight presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in addition to carrying heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials, on many historic journeys. More information about the aircraft and its most historic missions is available here.
To access the aircraft, visitors must ride shuttle buses from the main museum complex to the Presidential Gallery, which is located on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Because of the increased interest in the aircraft, the museum is expanding the number of bus trips to the Presidential and Research & Development Galleries, offering four trips per day from now until Dec. 1.
The shuttle service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and visitors are encouraged to sign up early in the day as buses fill up quickly. A current government-issued photo ID is required for U.S. citizens over age 18, and all foreign visitors must present an original passport. Anyone under age 18 must be escorted by an adult. Shuttle buses are not handicapped accessible, and individuals requiring special assistance should contact the museum’s Operations Division in advance at 937-255-3286 to arrange transportation.
Military and Department of Defense civilians with government ID may use their private vehicle to visit the galleries from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Dec. 1.
Visitors also can explore “behind the scenes” of SAM 26000 through 15 high-definition panoramic interior photos. The images are part of the free Cockpit360º app available from the museum and AeroCapture Images. The app features interior images of more than 25 well-known aircraft on display at the museum and can be downloaded from the Apple Store. The photos also are part of the museum’s interactive 360° virtual tour.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the service’s national institution for preserving and presenting the Air Force story. Each year, more than 1 million visitors come to the museum to learn about the mission, history and evolving capabilities of America’s Air Force.
For more information: NationalMuseum.af.mil.