An Air Force One Tall Tale



Don Conner



This photo is of the Air Force One aircraft (minus the president) taxiing past a C-141 at McChord in the summer of 1971.

It had been up at Renton field (south of Seattle) for modifications prior to Nixon's trip to China. The aircraft commander called down to McChord to request that we send a refueling truck up there. All they had at Renton was Jet-A; he wanted JP-4.

As a naive lieutenant I advised him that I didn't think my refuelers would survive the 40 mile road trip up there without breaking down. He told me to call the 89th and if it was okay with them, he'd fly down to McChord and gas up. They said fine.

I was waiting out in front of Base Ops with my camera when a Colonel came out and wanted to know what all the hub-bub was about. Being somewhat of a smart ass, I told him Air Force One was inbound, just five minutes out.

He turned and went back in the building swearing "I'm the Operations Officer, but nobody tells me anything!"

Don


C141HEAVEN Continuing Education Program:
If you want to learn more than you ever knew about aviation fuel Chevron has an excellent review:
Click here for a 2 mb PDF file..
The AF doesn't use JP-4 anymore...now it's all JP-8.
Read about why in either of the links just referenced.


Side Note from Mike Novack

Instead of going home to the LA area for summer vacation following my junior year at the University of Washington during the summer of 1971 I stayed in Seattle to complete in the ROTC Flight Instruction Program. After living in Seattle for three years, I knew that if you want to learn to fly there you'd better do it in the summer.

I was down at Renton field one day preparing for a solo flight and after I had called ground control for taxi permission they told me not to even start my engine until they gave me the OK. A few seconds later, the Air Force One aircraft went zooming off the runway to the north towards Mercer Island. After reading Don's story it seems like a good bet that this was the same aircraft on the same day. I've no way to prove it, but the timing seems right.

Here's a shot of the runway at Renton:

You can't see it in this photo, but Boeing has some major plant facilities just to the east out of the field of view of the camera on this picture. They did a lot of work on 727's and 737's and some military work as well, which is why Air Force One was there.

There is a seaplane ramp at the north end of this runway where Wiley Post and Will Rogers set off towards Alaska in a LOCKHEED aircraft in August, 1935. They had stopped at Renton to have it outfitted with pontoons for the expected puddle jumping they planned to be doing. A week later the aircraft crashed in Alaska and both men died.

I've made a PDF of the story, which you can download from here.



Here's 99 Juliet, the plane in which I learned to fly. It's parked on the ramp at the north end of the Renton Airport.

Mike Novack


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