Johnson's Restored Presidential Plane Added as Park Exhibit

Wednesday, September 08 2010 03:00   Other NPs
Lyndon B. Johnson's Presidential Lockheed Jet Star, restored to its 1960s splendor, has been added as a new permanent exhibit at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City, Texas.

The aircraft's dedication ceremony was part of the observance of the 102nd anniversary of President Johnson's birth on Friday, Aug. 27.

The day began at the Johnson Family Cemetery, where the traditional wreath was placed on the President's gravesite by Colonel Richard Murphy, commander of the 12th Flying Training Wing from Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Following the ceremony at the cemetery, the activities continued at the LBJ Ranch airplane hangar, where new exhibits and a new road were dedicated.

During the aircraft's dedication, First Daughter Luci Baines Johnson smiled and said, "No one loved his birthday more than my father, and he would be so pleased to know that his plane is back home."

This smaller version of Air Force One, dubbed Air Force One-Half by President Johnson, allowed him to fly directly to the LBJ Ranch from Washington, D.C.

LBJ traveled on a Boeing 707 for most trips when he was President, but the larger plane could not land at the ranch because the 6,300-foot asphalt airstrip was not long enough. However, a JetStar could land and taxi to within 200 yards of LBJ's Texas White House along the Pedernales River.

The 50-year-old JetStar was rescued from the Pentagon's "bone yard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, where it had been sitting in the desert sun for 23 years since being retired.

Brigadier General James Cross (Ret.), LBJ's Air Force One pilot, was on hand to dedicate the historic aircraft. Cross was the first Air Force pilot qualified to fly a JetStar. In 1961, he flew the first one off the production line in Georgia to its new home at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. Following a 1962 trip to Florida, then Vice-President Johnson informed Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that he wanted Cross to be his pilot and the JetStar reserved for his use.

When asked if Lyndon Johnson was a good man to fly for, General Cross replied with a smile and a laugh: "At times."

Another guest of honor was long time LBJ Ranch employee James Davis, for whom the new Davis Road is named. This road allows the area around the Texas White House complex to be completely a pedestrian area, a great enhancement to visitor safety and the visitor experience.

A new exhibit inside the airplane hangar was also unveiled.

The Circle of Life exhibit communicates the significance of LBJ's Texas White House as the center of the first remote White House operation, where LBJ spent one third of his presidency.

Following the festivities, the "Texas White House", President and Mrs. Johnson's home on the ranch, was open for free tours of the five downstairs rooms presently available to the public - the presidential office, living room, dining room, kitchen, and den.

The presidential Lockheed JetStar and other exhibits are part of the ongoing efforts to return the LBJ Ranch to the 1960s cultural scene - the site of the first fully functional remote white house operation in U.S. history.

For more information, visit the park's Web site at .


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