I stopped by my old stomping grounds at Joint Base Andrews on Monday, just to show face with the civilians. While traveling on the Perimeter Road, I noticed that Air Force One was out on the taxiway. I suppose the President was either flying out or just flying in. Seeing that plane—even from a distance—is still a marvel to me. I’m reminded of the time I actually got up close and personal to it…a few years back this week, actually. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: my first Air Force One tour.
How I first came across this moment? Me going on a tour of Air Force One started with me taking over the facility management program at Joint Base Andrews in August 2010. When I revamped the program, I became familiar with all of the facility managers on the installation. I became very friendly with many of them…in particularly, the one from the Presidential Airlift Group. He oversaw the hangar that housed Air Force One. In April 2011, I asked him if I could get a tour of Air Force One. He said yes. I asked if I could bring my girlfriend and make it a bit of a unique date and he was with it. He told me I had to wait for a period when the plane would be available for me to tour. Unfortunately, I had to wait 2 months and by the time my tour date came around, I had been dumped by my girlfriend as she wanted to give her son’s father a 2nd chance…for her son’s sake, as she put it. Her loss became my supervisor’s gain: I ended up taking Martin Ayala as my plus-one. We rolled up to the Presidential Airlift Group, went through security, got stripped of our electronics, and toured the Presidential plane.
What it meant to me then? I’ve been on airplanes before…more than 300 of them in my lifetime. Being on Air Force One was a completely different ballgame though. It was kinda like an office building and a command center and a press room all-in-one…basically the airplane version of the Pentagon. To describe what it meant to me in the moment can be summed up into one word: patriotic. I felt like an American in the moment. I felt so proud of my national service.
What it means to me now? I really wish I could’ve taken photos but for security reasons, I couldn’t. That didn’t cheapen the moment though. I got to tour to the most famous plane in all of the land. I got to sit in the President’s chair at his desk. For a moment, I felt the way Leonardo DiCaprio did in his famous Titanic scene: I was the king of the world. Oh yeah, I did get a tour of Air Force One on that bit of a unique date I mentioned earlier…on a first date in February 2012, a couple of months before I was set to leave for Seoul.