President Gerald R. Ford Waving to the Crowd at His Arrival at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts
This photograph was taken from behind President Ford as he exited Air Force One.
Gerald R. Ford White House Photographs
Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. (July 14, 1913 – December 26, 2006) served as the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. He is the only person to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without being elected to either office. As he was appointed to fill a vacancy and then succeeded to the presidency, Ford also earned the distinction of being the only person in American history to neither begin nor finish either a presidential or vice presidential term on the date of a regularly-scheduled inauguration. Before vice-presidency, Ford served 25 years as Representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district, the final 9 of them as the House Minority Leader. Ford's reputation for integrity and openness had made him popular during his 25 years in Congress. When Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974, he declared, "I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances.... This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts." As President, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, marking a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam nine months into his presidency, U.S. involvement in Vietnam essentially ended. Ford acted vigorously to maintain U. S. power and prestige after the collapse of Cambodia and South Vietnam. Domestically, Ford presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure. He granted a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. In the GOP presidential primary campaign of 1976, Ford defeated then-former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. He narrowly lost the presidential election to the Democratic challenger, then-former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, on November 2. Following his years as President, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. He died on December 26, 2006 and lived longer than any other U.S. president, 93 years and 165 days. "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our constitution works."
Technically, Air Force One is used to describe any Air Force aircraft carrying the President — but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief. Today, this name refers to one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000. The Air Force designation for the aircraft is VC-25A. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly in an aircraft while in office. President Harry S. Truman replaced VC-54C in 1947 with a modified C-118 Liftmaster, calling it the Independence after his Missouri hometown. President Eisenhower introduced four propeller-driven aircraft to presidential service. This group included two Lockheed C-121 Constellations, aircraft Columbine II (VC-121A 48-610) and Columbine III (VC-121E 53-7885). They were named by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower for the columbine, official state flower of her adopted home state of Colorado. In 1959, the Air Force added the first of Boeing 707-120 jet aircraft—VC-137s, designated SAM (Special Air Missions) 970, 971 and 972. In 1962, the U.S. Air Force purchased a Boeing C-137 Stratoliner, a modified long-range Boeing 707—Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000. SAM 26000 was in service from 1962 to 1998, serving Presidents John Kennedy to Bill Clinton. During the Johnson Administration, the United States Air Force acquired a Beechcraft King Air B90 which was designated VC-6A. The aircraft was used to transport President Johnson between Bergstrom Air Force Base and his family ranch near Johnson City, Texas, and was used at least once to transport the President to Princeton, New Jersey. It was referred to as Lady Bird's airplane and later in its service life featured a basic color scheme similar to civilian aircraft. When the President was aboard, the aircraft used the call sign Air Force One. In December 1972 VC-137, Special Air Mission 27000 was added to the fleet while SAM 26000 was kept as a backup until it was finally retired. Richard Nixon was the first president to use SAM 27000; the newer aircraft served every president until it was replaced by two VC-25A aircraft (SAM 28000 and 29000) in 1990 when Reagan Administration ordered two identical 747s to replace the aging 707s he used. as of 2019, the VC-25As are to be replaced.