Air Force Museum highlights Air Force One, artifacts associated with President Carter

Carter is at home under hospice care

Those close to Jimmy Carter have said in recent days that the former president is spending what time remains to him under the care of a hospice team at his home.

A National Museum of the U.S. Air Force historian took time Wednesday to highlight museum artifacts associated with Carter.

The biggest one, of course, is a Boeing VC-137C in the museum’s Presidential Gallery, the first jet aircraft built specifically for use by presidents.

During a 36-year flying career, the plane carried eight presidents and many heads of state, diplomats and others. It’s often referred to as “SAM (Special Air Missions) 26000.” Carter also used SAM 27000, although technically any plane the president uses can adopt the radio call signal “Air Force One.”

“One of the most memorable moments for President Carter and SAM 26000 — this airplane right here — is when he joined Presidents Nixon and Ford ... to attend the funeral of Anwar Sadat in Egypt in 1981,” said Doug Lantry, museum historian and research curator. “These are three former presidents travelling internationally on an Air Force aircraft to recognize the life and accomplishments — and unfortunate demise — of a respected international leader in a foreign country.”

Sadat was assassinated in October 1981.

“This is the Air Force serving the president, and the president serving the nation,” Lantry added.

Carter, 98, is the longest living former president. Now at his Plains, Ga. home, he has dealt with brain cancer, liver surgery, a hip replacement and other ailments.

Lantry also highlighted a jacket used by retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kim Johnson, who served as an administrative assistant to the president on Air Force One. Johnson told a Tennessee TV station in 2020 that she served under six presidents.

“You can see this jacket has a very prominent presidential seal on it,” Lantry said. “That is such a special symbol to the people who wore that jacket.”

The museum’s William E. Boeing Presidential Gallery has a collection of presidential aircraft, and visitors can walk through four of them.

The museum’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. The entrance to museum grounds is at gate 28B off Springfield Street in Riverside.

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