Visitors to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton are getting a look at the inside the plane that carried John F. Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington, D.C through December 1st. Kennedy's Air Force One is getting extra attention as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.
It was in the Boeing 707, in 1963, that Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office, while Jackie Kennedy stood by his side, still wearing the pink suit stained in her husband’s blood. The nation remained in shock after the grim events of that day but Museum historian Dr. Jeff Underwood says what happened on Air Force One was also a very private moment.
"Dislocation and high politics, and power politics – all the world is going on around," says Underwood, "but right here it all becomes very personal again with one woman sitting next to the body of her murdered husband.”
Now, the aisles of the plane are lined in plexiglass to preserve its interior, and for the most part, it’s restored to its original condition, but there are still traces of the modifications the flight crew made that day to accommodate the unusual circumstances.
According to the historian, The crew “refused to put [Kennedy's] casket in the cargo hold, so what they did was they pulled the last four seats out of the aircraft and, since they knew they wouldn’t be able to get the casket into the back of the aircraft they took a saw and cut off part of the bulkhead, and they removed it, and put the casket right here so it ran the length of the aircraft.”
The plane, made for Kennedy in 1962, served as Air Force One for the next seven presidents: from Johnson to Clinton. In 1998, it was flown to Wright-Patt, where it is on display today. The exhibit has generated so much interest, the museum has extended the number of days that visitors can walk inside to see the historic plane.