First Air Force One Returns to Flight

Columbine II begins the journey from Arizona to its new home in Virginia.

Columbine II
The first airplane to be designated Air Force One, the Columbine II, flew from Arizona to Mid America Flight Museum's base in Mount Pleasant, Texas.Facebook/Mid America Flight Museum

A historic airplane has returned to the skies as Columbine II, a 1948 Lockheed C-121A Constellation that holds the claim to fame of being the very first airplane to be called Air Force One, took off yesterday from the Marana Regional Airport in Marana, Arizona, where it has been parked since 2003.

After being available for sale for several years, the airplane was purchased last year by Bridgewater, Virginia-based Dynamic Aviation. The company, with help from Mid America Flight Museum, has brought Columbine II back to life.

Yesterday, the Constellation's four 2,500 hp Wright R-3350 engines spun up and the airplane flew from Arizona to Mid America Flight Museum's base in Mount Pleasant, Texas, flanked by a B-25 and a Beechcraft King Air. Columbine II will now continue its flight to Bridgewater, where it will be restored to airshow flying quality.

Columbine II was used as the presidential aircraft of choice by Dwight D. Eisenhower between 1952 and 1954. Air Force One was adopted as its call sign after the airplane, then with the call sign Air Force 8610, was put on a collision course with Eastern Airlines Flight 8610 – a mistake made by the air traffic controller due to the identical flight numbers.