Today in History – August 26, 1959 – US Presidents now ride in jets.

26 August 1959 – “The White House enters the jet age… pressure from Secretary of State John Dulles (after whom the Capitol’s airport is now named) described “the somewhat shoddy appearance of a US President arriving at international meetings aboard a prop” plane,  while Russian dignitaries flew in aboard jets…(1)

“The first presidential jet plane, a specially built Boeing 707-153, is known as SAM (Special Air Mission) 970. This aircraft, as well as any other Air Force aircraft, carried the call sign “Air Force One” when the president was aboard. Delivered in 1959 to replace President Eisenhower’s Super-Constellation, the high-speed jet transport was a flying Oval Office with a modified interior and sophisticated communication equipment. Eisenhower became the first U.S. president to fly by jet on SAM 970 on August 26, 1959.

SAM 970 was the first of three 707s acquired in 1959 as presidential aircraft, designated the VC-137 series. In addition to Eisenhower, SAM 970 has carried Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as foreign leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev. In 1962, SAM 970 was replaced on primary presidential duty by a newer Boeing VC-137C. It was later used by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for North Vietnamese peace talks in 1970-71, secret talks with the Chinese in 1971, and Middle East “shuttle diplomacy” in 1974. SAM 970 remained in the presidential fleet ferrying VIPs and the Vice-President until June of 1996.” (2)


Sources: (1) Wikipedia; (2)

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