Castle Air Museum in Atwater to get retired Air Force One

tmiller@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 8, 2013 

SUBMITTED PHOTO/CASTLE AIR MUSEUM The VC-9, used by presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, is the latest addition to the Castle Air Museum's collection of aircraft. The museum will receive the plane in about a month, after clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. (uploaded Sept. 5, 2013)

— Castle Air Museum's latest addition to its collection is a presidential one.

The Atwater museum's staff is expecting the plane, which carried presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, within the next month.

"This is a very rare and significant opportunity for the museum to have such an aircraft, with the history associated to it," said Joe Pruzzo, chief executive officer of the museum.

The McDonnell Douglas VC-9C was part of the presidential fleet, Pruzzo said. It was most often used to fly into smaller airfields that might not have been able to handle the larger and more commonly used jets.

At times, the plane was referred to by the presidential call sign.

"When the president's aboard, it becomes Air Force One," Pruzzo said. "It doesn't matter if it's a Cessna or a 747."

The plane was also used by every vice president from Walter Mondale to Dick Cheney, Pruzzo said, and every first lady from Rosalynn Carter to Laura Bush.

Pruzzo said the addition will be a good way to teach museum-goers about the president's role as commander in chief. When the plane was used by a president, it was part Oval Office and part war room.

"It's a mobile, flying White House, if you will," Pruzzo said.

The VC-9C remains intact from its days with the presidential fleet, Pruzzo said. Museum-goers will be able to tour the cabin.

Castle staff is working out the details for transportation of the plane with the Federal Aviation Administration, Pruzzo said, so its exact arrival date has not be determined.

But, he said, its arrival will be accompanied by a formal reception.

Pruzzo said the aircraft was awarded to the museum by the Department of General Services in July.

The Castle Air Museum has 56 aircraft on display. Pruzzo said the VC-9C and aircraft in the process of being restored brings the total to about 70.

"This all has been made possible over the past 32 years, by the dedication, interest and generosity of local and regional individuals and businesses," he said.

He said a number of corporate sponsors donated fuel, maintenance and other services to get the VC-9C to Atwater from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona.

The sponsors are UVAIR/EPIC Air Corp., TBM Aviation, Allegiant Airlines, Specialized Aviation Services LLC and private donors.

Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or tmiller@mercedsunstar.com.

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