Former Presidential plane lands Castle Air Museum in Atwater

A piece of presidential history arrived in Merced County.
October 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A piece of presidential history arrived in Merced County. A plane that carried presidents, vice presidents, and first ladies ended its last flight at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater.

With flags waving the crowd waited for the arrival of the former Presidential plane. The DC9, made its last flight from Arizona, to the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, to go on permanent display at the Castle Air Museum alongside the world's fastest plane, and a variety of some 60 other vintage planes.

Joe Pruzzo the director of Castle Museum told Action News, "It will be the catalyst not only for aviation folks but for the United States government, the heritage of our nation."

The nearly 40 year old jetliner served Presidents, vice presidents and every first lady from 1975 to 2005.

From the Carter administration to the second Bush administration Ken Rice was one of the pilots.

Rice said, "My first duty was Nancy Reagan the dragon lady, the Bushes, Barbara and George Bush, certainly my favorite, Barbara Bush."

The plane was usually designated Air Force 2, but when presidents flew in it, the plane was designated Air Force 1.

Presidents used it when they needed to visit smaller airport. Bill Clinton last officially used the plane in 1999, and it's been reported that President Bush used it for a secret flight to Baghdad in 2006.

Folks in the North Valley, like Sandy Tuttle of Winton are thrilled to have it here.

"Absolutely fabulous," said Winton resident Sandy Tuttle. "Historic day today in Atwater California, Castle Air Museum. I hope everyone comes to see it. It will be a special, special treat."

Former Pilot Ken Rice says he didn't pay much attention to what was going on outside the cockpit.

Rice explained, "A lot of things happen on the road but our philosophy was once they stepped on board they were in their own home, so we tried to not bother them, not ask for picture and to keep what happened out of the public certainly nothing sensational that I can talk about."

He did share a funny story about vice president Dan Quayle, who on one flight was left stranded in the bathroom after the plane landed and shut down.

Rice said, "So after the airplane went dark he stuck his head out and asked if we could give him some light to finish up his business."

The presidential plane is expected to be a major feature at the Castle Air Museum, which attracts nearly 60 thousand visitors a year.


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