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Air Force One at Austin Airport

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Air Force One at Austin Airport


Photos by: Michelle Hershberger

By: Michelle Hershberger

March 10 started off just like any other day when suddenly, as I was pouring the last of my rationed milk before Spring Break into my Fruit Loops, I got a message from the White House confirming my attendance at the Air Force One arrival and departure at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

I did what any newly minted White House “official” journalist would do—I called my mother. Like any seasoned journalist, I knew I needed to do my research since the bulk of my knowledge came from the Cory in the House episode, “Air Force One Too Many.”

Air Force One is not the name of a particular plane, rather it is the official air traffic control call sign of any aircraft carrying the President of the United States. There are two identical presidential aircrafts, Boeing 747-200 models, which meet the security and operational needs of the Commander-in-Chief and his staff. This includes the ability to refuel inflight, attain speeds of 600 miles per hour and an encrypted telecommunications system.

Air Force One is maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group and is part of the White House Military Office. The aircraft can be, and has been, used as a mobile command center during an attack.

The plane has three floors and spans 4,000 square feet. The space includes an office, conference room, bedroom for the president, kitchen, gym and operating room and hospital with onboard medical staff.

As the presidential plane landed on the tarmac and stopped right in front of me, I was overwhelmed by its grandeur. More massive than the aircraft, though, was the scale of the operation taking place. I knew there would be a band of men in dark suits with ear pieces but I continued to be amazed as they multiplied rapidly with each passing minute.

Watching Obama come down the steps of Air Force One was even more magical than seeing my sister come down the stairs in her prom dress. If there was an award for deplaning with grace, I believe it should be given to Obama.

Austin mayor Steve Adler greeted Obama as he came off the plane and the two exchanged words for a couple minutes. Obama then did his big wave and signature smile for the press before entering the presidential limousine to head downtown to give the keynote address at SXSW.

A photographer next to me commented that she worried her pictures would turn out blurry because she was shaking the whole time. I, too, felt a swell of patriotism and pride as I experienced Air Force One as one of the most recognizable symbols of the American presidency and its power.

As I ate my dry Fruit Loops the next morning, I started thinking about the upcoming election and wondered who would be the next president to fly on Air Force One…