MARANA, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - While lots of people hoping to be President are passing through Arizona, the very first Air Force One was getting a sendoff at Marana Airport.
This Lockheed Constellation was the first of three planes that carried Dwight Eisenhower as President. He named it Columbine II, after the state flower of Colorado, his wife Mamie’s home state but it also became the first Air Force One.
It was about to be broken up for parts when the owners learned of its history. Now after several years sitting in Marana it's nearly ready to fly again.
The Lockheed Constellation was one of the most beautiful planes of its time.
KGUN cameras caught Columbine II flying into Ryan Airfield 16 years ago.
By that time it had been saved from scrap once already after a historian told the owners the plane they bought from the boneyard for spare parts was the first Air Force One.
But after a few years in the air show circuit it spent more than ten years stored at Marana Airport with doubts it would ever fly again.
Now with a new owner it's nearly ready to fly.
Mary Eisenhower is President Eisenhower's granddaughter . She remembers flying on this plane as a little girl. As an adult she appreciates its place in history.
"It carried him to Korea when he agreed as President-Elect to go and negotiate an armistice in Korea and the plane carried him there.. She's kind of a silent witness, you know?"
Here's how the plane became the first to be called Air Force One.
Its usual radio call sign was the tail number: Air Force 8610. One day President Eisenhower and this plane were in the same airspace as Eastern Airlines 8610. An air traffic controller confused the two. To avoid that kind of dangerous mix-up the Presidential plane was Air Force One from then on.
You look at the plane and say. “That doesn't look like an Air Force One”. The plain aluminum fuselage is how the plane looked at the time it flew President Eisenhower. It wears the standard look for an Air Force executive transport. That distinctive blue color scheme that's so familiar now did not come in until the President after Eisenhower--John Kennedy.
A company called Boneyard Safari caught video of the plane testing its engines and taxiing. You can hear the distinctive sound only a large prop plane can make.
Soon the plane will be ready to fly to Virginia where it will be restored inside and out to look as it did and fly like a plane fit for a President.