Long live the Queen: VC-25A is now officially the longest serving presidential aircraft

SAM 28000, one of two current VC-25As (photo: Wikipedia)

It’s official: the Boeing VC-25A—two modified 747-200Bs with tail numbers 28000 and 29000, more commonly referred to as Air Force One—is now the longest-serving presidential aircraft. I’ve been tracking this milestone for awhile now, and to be quite honest, I actually botched it at first (don’t judge… I’m not a mathematician!).

Because I also have a strange fascination with the Kennedy family (who doesn’t?), I knew that JFK’s two modified 707s with tail numbers 26000 and 27000 (the Boeing VC-137C) were most certainly the longest serving presidential aircraft of all time… I didn’t, however, realize just how soon today’s Queens of the Skies were going to steal the crown from those two planes that first entered service when Kennedy was in office.

I originally (and mistakenly) did my calculations as follows (using the entry-into-service date for the VC-137C as opposed to the first time it actually flew as Air Force One). This had VC-25A officially becoming the longest serving presidential aircraft on Aug. 5, just a couple days ago.

VC-137C (two different modified 707s:  SAM 26000 and SAM 27000)

10,194 days between Oct. 9, 1962 (VC-137C first entered service) and Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One)

VC-25A (two different modified 747-200Bs: SAM 28000 and SAM 29000)

10,195 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One) and Aug. 5, 2018

However, upon realizing my mistake and finding the actual date when VC-137C first flew with Kennedy on board (therefore using the call sign Air Force One), November 10, 1962, I realized that my timeline had moved up roughly a month and that this milestone actually happened on July 4 of this year (pretty cool date for an American milestone, eh?).

VC-137C (two different modified 707s:  SAM 26000 and SAM 27000)

10,162 days between Nov. 10, 1962 (VC-137C first flew as Air Force One) and Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first few as Air Force One)

VC-25A (two different modified 747-200Bs: SAM 28000 and SAM 29000)

10,163 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (VC-25A first flew as Air Force One) and July 4, 2018

It is important to note, however, that this doesn’t mean the 747 (generally speaking) is the longest serving presidential aircraft… that honor still goes to the 707, at least for now. Dwight D. Eisenhower was actually the first to fly in a modified Boeing 707 using the call sign Air Force One (VC-137B) when he departed Dec. 3, 1959 on his “Flight to Peace” goodwill tour to 11 Asian nations.

The 747 won’t officially take the crown from the 707 for another three years, on June 11, 2021.

Boeing 707

11,235 days between Dec. 3, 1959 (707 first flew as Air Force One) and Sept. 6, 1990 (747 first flew as Air Force One)

Boeing 747

11,236 days between Sept. 6, 1990 (747 first flew as Air Force One) and June 11, 2021

I want to give a special thanks to our incredibly awesome historian here at Boeing, Mike Lombardi, for reminding me that it’s important to make these distinctions. And, I’ll add… that June 2021 milestone is a surefire thing since the new Air Force One planes currently on order are two 747-8s expected to be delivered (last I heard) by 2024. So even if they were delivered tomorrow, they’re still 747s and the math still works… so there.

With that, there’s only one thing left to say: Long live the Queen.

Boeing: Air Force One (read about past, current and future presidential aircraft)

Hello, it’s me…

It’s bizarre… I am coming up on eight months in my role here at Boeing in Chicago. It has been fun and awe-inspiring at times, busy and stressful at others—but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve made mistakes.

I’ve celebrated successes.

I’ve made friends.

I’ve made enemies.

(just kidding… I haven’t made any enemies)

Anyways…while life and work have been busy, I’ve tried my best to keep up with The Great Planes—both the social media and the blog. And even though my posts may not be as frequent, I still do write as often as I can, and do my best to make sure my stories are meaningful.

A couple weeks back, I was up in the Twin Cities for my father-in-law’s wedding, which took place Saturday. On Sunday, my mom and I spent the morning out at the dog park next to MSP Airport—obsessing over fuzzy friends and watching the big birds fly in. We were waiting around for the KLM A330 to fly in when I noticed two people walking toward us on the gravel path. Before long I heard, “Excuse me,” and I swiftly turned around. Two men stood there, one appeared to be college-aged, the other looked to be my mom’s age. The younger one asked me, “Are you The Great Planes?”

“Como se what?” I asked myself inside my head before quickly answering (aloud), “Yes!”

The younger of the two introduced himself as Max—he was with his dad. They were both incredibly sweet, passionate people… another parent-child duo that share a love of aviation is always fun to come by.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and as I was walking into our Boeing headquarters, a woman approached me in the hallway. “Excuse me,” she said as she slowed in her steps. “Are you the blogger?”

Somewhat taken aback, I said, “I mean, I blog…?”

“But you run the aviation blog, right? And the Instagram?” she asked.

“Oh YES, I run The Great Planes!”

After chatting for a few minutes, I learned her name: Grace. She, too, works for Boeing and said she recognized my face from the few photos that I’m actually in on my account.

It was such a great interaction and a great feeling, similar to how I felt at MSP after meeting Max and his dad. Just knowing that my stories are read (if only by a few people) and that my pictures are seen, really means a lot.

It’s not often that this blog or my social accounts are my top priority, but I still have tried pretty dang hard to build out The Great Planes as its own brand of sorts… and to get that sort of validation and recognition from people who enjoy my posts, was just about the greatest feeling in the world.

Meeting Max and Grace really inspired me to ramp up the writing and to try to post here more often. Life is way too short to spend time doing things you aren’t passionate about. I am glad I learned that early on, and hope that through my stories, my photos and my transparency—someone else will get inspired to follow their dreams too.

This is me.

I am brave, I am bruised,
I am who I’m meant to be — this is me.

Once again, watching “The Voice” inspired me to write because Kyla Jade just knocked it out of the park with “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman soundtrack.

That song carries a lot of weight and sort of speaks to me. I mean, all in all, I’ve lived an amazingly fortunate and happy life. However, we all have to deal with not-so-easy stuff from time to time, whether we bring it on ourselves, or it’s just in the cards we’ve been dealt.

This blog is supposed to be about planes, so I’m not going to ramble about any of the so-called “struggles” I’ve had in my nearly 31 years on Earth, but I will say this much: sometimes following your heart isn’t easy.

I followed my plane-shaped heart to Chicago nearly six months ago. I knew it was the right thing to do to pursue my passion for aviation, but it sure was hard leaving my husband back in Minnesota. I’m lucky enough to have a job that keeps my heart overly full, but spending my nights and weekends without my other half has caused many a tearful night.

I’m so over-the-moon to say that, despite having two more semesters left at the University of Minnesota, my husband Scott will be moving down here for the summer this Saturday. I felt like I’ve waited so, so long for this… words can’t describe the sheer joy I’m feeling.

And, to add to the excitement, today I received an invitation to my dear friend Branden’s wedding. Branden is one of many people I’ve connected with through our mutual love of planes, but one of only very few I’ve been fortunate enough to actually meet in person. Scott and I are delighted to be able to be there to watch he and his awesome wife-to-be Cortney tie the knot this July.

It might sound too simple to be true, but no matter how “perfect” life may seem… there will always be *something* working against you. In my case, I found my dream job in a city that I’m madly in love with, but sustaining a long-distance relationship hasn’t exactly been “easy.”

What I’ve learned, is that you always have to be looking for the light at the end of the tunnel (Scott and I WILL reunite) and find joy in little every day bursts of sunshine (a wedding invitation from a new friend, a good laugh at work, late night snuggles with feline friends, you get the idea…).

I am brave, I am bruised,
I am who I’m meant to be — this is me.

I was born a dreamer…

“All dreams start out small,

Sometimes you don’t know they’re there at all.

But I lay awake wishing on the stars,

All the while knowing in my heart.

I was born a dreamer,

A wide-eyed believer in things unseen.

I was born a dreamer,

Oh say you believe in me.”

Those lyrics are from one of my favorite songs of all time, “I Was Born a Dreamer” by Shel. And now more than ever I feel like those words ring so true.

I’ve always been a dreamer. As far back as I can remember, I’ve approached situations and ideas with the wide eyes, eagerness and often times naivety of a child. And to this day, nothing about that has changed.

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been having a recurring dream that I, myself, can fly. Now, as an adult, that notion and those dreams are even more meaningful, because I know that it will simply never happen. Sounds like a total “Debbie Downer” reason to call something “meaningful,” right? It’s not though.

I mean… I’ll never be able to hold my hands straight above my head and launch into the sky the way I do in my dreams—but that’s what makes the dream so special. I love going to bed each night and hoping and praying that I might be so lucky to take a flight in those dark, quiet hours I lay in my bed.

The other night, however, I had a somewhat strange variation of that decades-old dream. Please, hold your applause—I mean… laughter—till the end. I dreamt that I was none other than a queen. No, I wasn’t wearing a crown… I wasn’t sitting on a throne… not THAT kind of queen.

I was a big, beautiful Boeing 747 and I was very obviously flying due East over the Atlantic. I climbed and I continued to climb. I was working so hard to stay airborne—for some reason it felt like everything was working against me, like gravity was even stronger than it already is.

The weird thing is, I’ve felt like that in “real life” lately. I feel like I am something big and beautiful… like it’s my time to shine… my time to fly—but I’m working really hard to make sure I keep it that way without crashing down.

Four months into my new job, I still love it so, so much. That doesn’t mean, however, that it hasn’t been hard. Being in a new city is fun and scary, starting a new job is exciting and stressful, and living alone is liberating and depressing.

I’m starting to think that the poor TSA folks at MSP think I’m completely bananas, as I usually show up with tears streaming down my face. It is really hard to bid farewell to my partner in crime and it never gets easier—never.

Lucky for me, Scott was recently brought on as an intern at an engineering firm in Chicago, which means he will live with me for roughly four months, before heading back to Minneapolis to tackle his final semester of school. I’m so proud of him and so excited to have someone to come home to once again.

I know there will always be both good days and bad days, just like there are always going to be both blue skies and grey, turbulent skies. The cool thing is that my intense love of aviation has not only made flight exciting, as opposed to utterly terrifying, for me… it has helped me to embrace and actually love hitting rough air. I love—and I mean LOVE—the chop.

All in all, I’m just hoping I can use what I’ve learned through flight (that everything will be OK despite the bumps) to help ease the pain of the tough times in everyday life. I’m not a religious person, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Tomorrow, and the next day, and even the day after that are going to happen… and I’m going to make the best of each and every one of those days.

I got a fever, and the only prescription… is more planes.

IMG_3980This past Monday, I went to flights.google.com. I typed in Chicago as my origin, I left the destination blank and I put Saturday, March 3 as both the departure and return date. I clicked “map” view and scoured the U.S. with a keen eye. Every city displayed roundtrip prices $150 and up… except one: Atlanta. Most don’t know and most would never guess, but I was actually born in Atlanta—June 16, 1987. The interesting thing was, the price that displayed just above the Atlanta, GA “dot” was $87. Yeah… this was happening.

I moved to Minnesota with my parents when I was still a baby, and I only returned to my true “hometown” once, for the 1996 Summer Olympics with my dad. It was a great trip—something not a lot of nine-year-old kids get to do, but I found it rather odd that technically, I’ve been an adult for almost 13 years, and I’d never returned to the Peach State… until yesterday.

I’m sure it goes without saying, but Hartsfield-Jackson (being the busiest airport in the entire world) had just a bit of influence on my seemingly impulsive decision to fly there for a day—that and the fact that the Delta Flight Museum also happened to be in ATL.

I think some people were a little surprised that I planned to spend nearly $100 just to fly to and from Atlanta for one day, all by myself. But you know what? After my solo trip to Istanbul where I ended up in the hospital on day one for an emergency appendectomy… I LOVE the idea of traveling solo. There is something so liberating about it.

So, after a full week of work, I awoke—albeit slightly unenthusiastically—at 5:30 Saturday morning to catch the 6:15 a.m. train to O’Hare. Being at airports and flying are things I would give just about anything to do any day of the week, so the early wake up on a weekend was a “no-brainer” for me.

I arrived at the airport, sped through security (thanks TSA pre-check) and took a few photos of planes taxiing or at their gates, before making it to my own gate to board the American Airlines 737 that would carry me to Atlanta.

When I landed at Hartsfield-Jackson, I immediately made my way to the ride-share area to catch a Lyft over to the Delta Flight Museum. When I arrived… let’s just say my bottom jaw was practically on the pavement outside the massive hangars that housed the aviation artifacts I was about to set eyes on. Upon entering, I couldn’t even believe what was in front of me: a Douglas DC-3, a Travel Air 6B Sedan and the always-beautiful “Spirit of Delta” Boeing 767, to name a few.

I was sort of in shock… not knowing where to go, what to touch, how to feel, who to talk to… above all, I was in AV geek heaven. A few highlights: meeting a group of six to seven friends who were likely in their late 70s/early 80s inside the “Spirit of Delta” who had asked me to take their photo, meeting them again at the first Boeing 747-400 ever built (Ship 6301) where they asked me to take another photo of them in front of an engine and where they, kindly, offered to take a photo of me standing in that engine (YES PLEASE!) and, finally, being able to walk out on the wing of the Queen of the Skies.

If you are an AV geek, and you’ve never been to this museum… you ARE missing out. Seriously. Go there as soon as you possibly can. You will not be disappointed.

Following my time there, I headed out to the Georgia Tech campus where I spent some time exploring and, most-importantly, reenergizing with an iced coffee and stuffing my face with a donut that happened to BE about the size of my face. I then bought a MARTA ticket and took the train back to the airport, where I made my way to the top of the south daily parking ramp to take some photos.

The weather was perfect: low 60s and warm sunshine. I saw a KLM 777, the Lufthansa A-340 in the Star Alliance livery and, expectedly, dozens of Maddog MD-80s and 90s. It was lovely.

I went back into the airport, found my way to my gate and boarded my ERJ-175 (my first time on an Embraer jet!) to fly back home to Chicago. It was a perfect, perfect day. And it must have been good… because I woke up this “morning” at 12:30 p.m.—I KNOW!

So… tonight, I raise a glass (OK, a tallboy of Collective Arts’ Radio the Mothership) in honor of Atlanta: my hometown and a true AV geek heaven. Thanks for the memories ATL.

View photos from my adventures on Facebook.

Be kind, be determined, be gracious and oh, meet your hero…

Whoever said, “Never meet your hero,” clearly never met Benét Wilson.

Honestly, I feel like it was in the stars for her to be my mentor. It was December 2016 when a little light bulb turned on in my head… “Maybe I can combine my love of planes with my passion for writing,” I thought. I needed to find a professional, someone who was actually doing what I hoped to do… and a few simple Google searches led me to the Aviation Queen website.

I reached out to Benét via email, and before I knew it we were talking on the phone and she gave me some crazy awesome news: she wanted me to contribute to her blog. A few posts in, she saw enough potential in me to recommend me to Airways Magazine’s Chris Sloan, who promptly brought me on as a contributing author. I wrote on a variety of topics and even got to take some pretty awesome trips—I was having the time of my life and was so incredibly gracious (and still am) for the complete and utter selflessness that both Benét and Chris showed in taking me under their wings and helping me as I learned to fly (no pun intended).

You all know how this story ends… I left the nest. Just a few months after this journey began, I was offered a job with the greatest aerospace company in the world: Boeing. My husband Scott is finishing up his last two semesters at the University of Minnesota, so for now it’s just me and our two cats down in Chitown. It is certainly hard to move to a new, big city by yourself… but I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything.

Each morning I bid farewell to my sweet, fuzzy friends, and I begin my one-mile walk to work. And each and every time I approach my office building, I stop briefly to look up at the big Boeing logo amidst all the other skyscrapers, and each and every time I just can’t help but crack a smile. I do the same each evening as I head home, except the sun is usually setting and the big logo is glowing against the dusky sky. Now I truly feel like I have more than just aviation in my blood—I have Boeing in my blood. I am proud, honored and humbled to say that I bleed Boeing blue.

Meeting Benét couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time either, as just yesterday FIRST—an international nonprofit that inspires K-12 students to develop STEM skills—announced that Boeing had donated $1.5 million to support young innovators. Another thing that makes FIRST awesome? Their focus on mentorship… showcasing firsthand the important role mentors play in learning, dreaming and doing. It wasn’t until my own journey began almost a year-and-a-half ago that I realized what a crucial role a mentor could play in my own life… Benét helped me to learn, she supported my dream and she cheered me on as I chased that dream.

Lucky for me, Benét is still on my team today—she is someone I can talk to, someone I can depend on and someone who supports me. I am so proud to call her my friend.

So here’s to you, Benét. You are an amazing person. Your smile is infectious. You make me want to be a better person. And as I hard as I try, I could never truly repay you for the ways in which you’ve helped me. In my opinion, no one deserves a lifetime full of blue skies and tailwinds more than you do.

This big beautiful machine… my only high

07CF82BE-A145-4B2C-964D-3DE8F34C5AEE.jpeg“It’s like I’ve never seen the sky before,
It’s like I never knew that we could fly.
Now all I want to do is spread my wings and soar,
This big, beautiful machine… my only high.”

Those are words I wrote some time ago as a sort of love letter to my so-called “flying friends” and the magic that they’re made of.

Right now I’m writing this from 37,000 feet, just south of Spokane, Wash. Merely two months into my new job with Boeing, I was fortunate enough to travel to Seattle to support the all-manager and executive webcast that our CEO hosted.

To say that a lot of work went into that event is an understatement, but the experience in its entirety was a great one. Watching my team’s hard work come to fruition this morning was so satisfying, and the trip as a whole was so much fun.

Yesterday afternoon I was extremely lucky to have the chance to visit our Everett factory with one of my teammates, Brittany. To be completely frank, I can’t find the words to describe how awe-inspiring that building is and how remarkable the facility’s operations truly are. We’re talking the world’s largest building by volume—it’s absolutely monstrous.

Upon our arrival, I nearly lost it as the huge building came into view and I saw the artwork that adorned the exterior, depicting different aircraft in vibrant colors. I had seen that wall hundreds of times in photos… I just couldn’t believe I was actually there.

When we first entered the building, the door shut behind us, I looked up and my eyes immediately glued themselves to a nearly-complete 747-800F being built for UPS. I was overcome with a feeling unlike any other… I felt like I was home. My eyes and my mouth were in a viscious battle with one another… would I burst out crying? Or would I smile big enough to cause stretch marks on my cheeks? Lucky for me, it was the latter.

Throughout our time there we saw a number of 747s—my favorite—and a slew of 767s, 777s and, of course, the ever-beautiful 787 Dreamliners all lined up and ready to go.

I touched landing gear that was ready to begin its life inside the belly of a 747-8—the gear standing nearly as tall as me. I saw the very first 777X wing and it’s folding wingtip… innovation at its finest. I saw an incredibly intricate “saddle” laying atop a 777-300ER, a mind-boggling structure that allows those who work atop the plane to do so much more easily.

We drove down the indoor streets aboard our little cart—the longest uninterrupted stretch of “road” spanning nearly a mile. We’d cruise past the lined up aircraft as I proudly named the airline each plane was being built for by looking at the paint on its tail—sometimes with only a slight sliver of paint down the middle. I was having the time of my life. I was in MY heaven.

The best way to describe the atmosphere inside Everett is that it’s essentially a city… an indoor city. Folks ride bicycles to get from one place to another, there are multiple cafeterias and it’s always bustling… much like New York City, it’s a “city” that truly never sleeps.

As I imagined it would be, leaving was hard. Just in the way I had always dreamed of working for Boeing, I had always dreamed of visiting Everett. It was a shame that it had to end.

When we pulled out of the parking lot, I heard a rumbling… I knew something was taking off from Paine Field next door, but I didn’t see anything. I quickly whipped out my phone and opened my flight radar app. I clicked on the nearest yellow airplane icon, its four engines let me know it was her royalty—the Queen of the Skies. However, once the aircraft information displayed, I realized that it wasn’t just the Queen… I shouted, “OH MY GOSH IT’S A DREAMLIFTER!”

I literally screamed, my heart rate skyrocketed and at the same time, Brittany shouted, “Oh my gosh there it is!” I looked up ahead just in time to see it soar off into the low clouds. The Dreamlifters are so magical… they’re specially modified 747-400s used to transport parts of the Dreamliner—only four of the massive, somewhat odd looking planes even exist.

And now I sit here at 37,000 feet, cruising above only-God-knows-where, Montana, reminiscing on these amazing memories so fresh in my mind. The air is smooth and the ground beneath looks grey, mountainous and snowy. On the northern horizon I see a sliver of soft yellow sky fading into blue. I see night ahead of us, and daytime behind us. I am tired, but so, so happy. My heart is full.

I really can’t explain it, but these airborne metal tubes mean the world to me, and that’s an understatement. I feel something huge going on inside my heart when I look up at an airplane, and that feeling is amplified when I’m actually in the sky.

Flight is magic in its purest form, and I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to work for a company that makes this magic happen, one that embraces new ideas and helps dreamers become doers. I am so incredibly humbled and honored to work for Boeing, and I just can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me… both physically and emotionally.

I truly appreciate the love and support of my family and friends who embrace and respect my childlike wonder. Now I’m positive that anything—and I mean ANYTHING—is possible.