Inside the Air Force One Plane from Last Night’s Presidential Debate

Sep 17, 2015

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If you watched last night’s Republican presidential debate, you probably noticed the unusual backdrop: President Reagan’s former Air Force One plane. That aircraft, based on Boeing’s 707, was officially retired in 2001, and has been the main attraction at the Simi Valley, CA presidential library ever since.

Landing at San Diego International Airport. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
Landing at San Diego International Airport. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

The narrow-body 707 had a range of more than 7,000 miles, allowing it to fly nonstop from Washington, D.C. to many destinations around the world, including the Middle East and parts of Asia.

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan in the state room in 1984. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
President Reagan and Nancy Reagan in the state room in 1984. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

As you can see above, the president’s quarters were far more compact than what’s currently available on the 747-based variant.

The communications center aboard Air Force One. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
The communications center aboard Air Force One. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

While passengers can maintain full connectivity while flying on the 747-based Air Force One, the communications equipment on Reagan’s plane was far less advanced, though still state-of-the-art for an aircraft in the 1980s.

President Reagan sitting with the crew in the cockpit of Air Force One in 1982. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
President Reagan sitting with the crew in the cockpit of Air Force One in 1982. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

The 707 had a cockpit crew of four, including a navigator (in the right seat above).

Fast asleep on Air Force One. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
Fast asleep on Air Force One. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

The President had a sofa to rest on, but other passengers had to make do with these cloth recliners. It’s a far cry from flying first class on Cathay Pacific.

The President works on his game during a flight. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
The President works on his golf game during a flight. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

With not much space to stretch out, amenities were slim, though the aisle did double as a putting green from time to time.

President Reagan and Nancy Reagan wave from Air Force in 1981. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.
President Reagan and Nancy Reagan wave from Air Force in 1981. Photo courtesy: Reagan Foundation.

Anyone paying the $16 admission fee (free for active-duty military) can access Air Force One, including self-guided tours of the plane’s interior. Located in Simi Valley, California (about 50 miles northwest of LAX), the museum is open from 10am until 5pm every day.

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