Columbine II

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Columbine II
Lockheed Constellation Columbine II parked in Bermuda during President Eisenhower's visit in 1953
Type Lockheed VC-121A-LO Constellation (Model 749-79-36)
Manufacturer Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Registration N9463
Serial 48-0610
In service January 1953 to November 1954 as President Eisenhower's personal aircraft
Last flight March 2016
Preserved at Conditionally airworthy (2016)

Columbine II is a Lockheed VC-121A-LO Constellation (Air Force Serial Number 48–0610, Lockheed Model 749-79-36); the aircraft that was to become the first plane to use the Air Force One callsign and the only presidential aircraft ever sold to a private party. The aircraft was ferried from long-term storage in the Sonoran Desert at Marana Regional Airport, Arizona, to the east coast for restoration in March 2016.[1][2]

Presidential aircraft[edit]

Columbine II was built as a C-121A at Burbank, California and bailed to Lockheed to support the Lockheed Air Service International maintenance facility at Keflavík, Iceland. In November 1952, President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower used the aircraft to travel to South Korea. Early in 1953 this aircraft was converted to VC-121A-LO standard for use by President Eisenhower, until replaced by VC-121E-LO Columbine III (AF Ser. No. 53-7885), operated by the 1254th Air Transport Squadron of the United States Air Force (USAF).[3]


Columbine II starting engines at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1990 for her final flight to Marana Airport

After being replaced, Columbine II continued in service with the United States Air Force until retired to Davis–Monthan Air Force Base for storage during the late 1960s. The aircraft was sold as part of a package lot to Mel Christler, a Wyoming businessman who owned a crop-dusting service, and was made airworthy in 1989 and flown to Abilene, Kansas for Eisenhower's 100th birthday celebration and to an air show at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. In 2003, it was flown to Marana Regional Airport, Arizona.

The aircraft owner was considering cutting the aircraft up as scrap when the Smithsonian Institution, during a research project, contacted the owner and informed him that 48-0610 was, in fact, a former presidential aircraft. The owner then, in the hope of finding a new owner willing to display the aircraft, attempted to sell the plane at auction, but it was not sold.[4]

Columbine II was purchased and moved from Arizona to Bridgewater, Virginia in March 2016 for restoration by Dynamic Aviation. The purchase price has not been disclosed, but the purchaser, Karl D. Stoltzfus Sr., founder of Dynamic Aviation, has said it was less than $1.5 million. Dynamic Aviation mechanics did significant work on the plane in Arizona in preparation for its flight to Virginia.[5] The restoration is expected to take several years to complete.[6]

"Columbine II" undergoing restoration at Bridgewater Air Park, Bridgewater, Virginia - September 2016

Call-sign "Air Force One"[edit]

Columbine II was the first plane to bear the call sign Air Force One. This designation for the U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the incumbent president was established after an incident in 1953, when Eastern Air Lines 8610, a commercial flight, crossed paths with Air Force 8610, which was carrying President Eisenhower.[5][7]


  1. ^ "First Air Force One plane decaying in Arizona field". NBC news. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  2. ^ "Columbine II Makes It To Texas". 22 March 2016.
  3. ^ Francillon, René J. (1987). Lockheed aircraft since 1913 (Repr. ed.). Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-897-2.
  4. ^ The First Air Force One (Adobe Flash streaming video). YouTube. Retrieved 2014-09-12.
  5. ^ a b "Original Air Force One will depart Arizona for Virginia, undergo further restoration". Phoenix, Arizona: KTAR News – 92.3 FM. March 26, 2016. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  6. ^ Dagenhart, Jenna (March 23, 2016). "First Air Force One Aircraft Lands in Bridgewater for Restorations". WVIR-TV. Archived from the original on March 27, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  7. ^ "Air Force One". Retrieved June 26, 2019.

External links[edit]