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Old Air Force One Moves Into New Roost at Reagan Library

The retired jet will be the centerpiece of an exhibit scheduled to open in mid-2005.

September 21, 2004|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

As an audience of hundreds looked on, the retired Air Force One jet used by President Reagan completed its final journey Monday as it was towed into its new home at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley.

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan observed the proceedings from a perch inside the unfinished Air Force One Pavilion, a three-story structure being built to showcase the 153-foot-long "flying White House." It was her first public appearance at the library since her husband's death on June 5.

The Boeing 707 carried the 40th president to destinations around the world, logging 631,640 miles during his eight years in office. Other presidents who used the plane during its 28 years of service were Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

"I am sure President Reagan is looking down on all of us today," said Duke Blackwood, the library's executive director, in opening remarks to the crowd of invited guests and public visitors.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 22, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Air Force One -- A headline on an article in some editions of Tuesday's California section about the retired Air Force One jet used by President Reagan said its exhibit at the Reagan presidential library near Simi Valley would open in 1995. The new exhibit is expected to open in mid-2005.

He presented Nancy Reagan with an orange to commemorate her habit of rolling an orange down the center aisle when the plane was aloft. Minutes later, the 80,000-pound fuselage with the words United States of America emblazoned across each side was slowly towed about 150 feet into the structure. The fuselage sat on a wheeled platform and was pulled by a semitruck.

When the process was completed about 10 minutes later, the semi honked three times and a cluster of red, white and blue balloons floated skyward. Construction workers in their hard hats and work boots ceased scrambling on the scaffolding to watch the action.

Set on a hilltop with sweeping views of Simi Valley, the pavilion's permanent exhibit will include Reagan's 1982 presidential parade limousine and three 1980s police vehicles donated and restored by the Los Angeles Police Historical Society. Some officers who served in Reagan's motorcade when he visited his home in Los Angeles sat in the audience.

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton accompanied a parade of motorcycles, with sirens blaring, into the pavilion area to present the restored vehicles, including a once bullet-riddled car that had been used for target practice at a police shooting range.

"I'm certain President Reagan would have loved this day," Bratton told the crowd, acknowledging he never met the president. "The panorama, the incredible weather and you, the American people."

Monday's move should be the final journey for the decommissioned aircraft, which was trucked more than 100 miles last year from San Bernardino to the library in southeast Ventura County.

Air Force One, assigned the tail number 27000, will be the centerpiece of a $20-million library expansion. In addition to the plane and cars, the pavilion will showcase Reagan's Marine One helicopter and a military fighter jet.

There also will be a separate two-level structure housing a learning center, auditorium and gallery.

The expansion will more than double the size of what is already the largest presidential library in the country. The exhibit is set to open in mid-2005.

The plane, whose wings had been positioned inside the building earlier Monday, will be reassembled by Boeing workers while the pavilion is completed.

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