History & Heritage Race showcases historic 'Air Force One' plane to wrap up 2023 season

  • Published
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT- PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A unique Boeing VC-137C plane known as SAM 26000, which served as “Air Force One” for eight presidents from Kennedy to Clinton, will be the sixth retired aircraft to headline the 2023 History & Heritage Race Series, powered by the Air Force Marathon, beginning Nov. 1.

The event marks the sixth and final virtual race during the series’s third season. Each event features its own historical aircraft vital to the Air Force’s past. All can be found in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  

SAM 26000 entered service in 1962 during the President John F. Kennedy administration, with a distinctive blue and white paint scheme and markings that served to illustrate American prestige wherever it traveled. Whenever the president was on board, the call sign changed to “Air Force One,” a special designation established in 1953 to avoid confusion with other aircraft in flight.

During its three decades of service, SAM 26000 played an important role in American presidential, political and diplomatic history, and it remains an important national symbol from the Cold War. When Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as new president aboard SAM 26000. The aircraft then carried Kennedy’s body back to Washington.

SAM 26000 became the president’s backup aircraft when the Air Force acquired another Boeing VC-137C, dubbed SAM 27000, in December 1972. However, it continued flying presidents, vice presidents and other high-ranking government officials on important missions for the next two decades.

It officially left the presidential fleet in 1990 and was retired to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in 1998. After 36 years and more than 13,000 flying hours, SAM 26000 began a new career educating thousands of museum visitors about their nation’s history.

History & Heritage Race Series competitors will receive a patch and information card highlighting the marquee aircraft, finisher’s medal and downloadable completion certificate.

Runners have the option to compete in the marathon, half marathon, 10K or 5K. Each participant may also run or walk the full distance at any destination of their choosing. Results can be uploaded using a GPS-tracking app that confirms time and mileage, but this step is not required to receive your race packet.  

For more information and to register for the race, visit www.usafvirtual.com. To learn more about SAM 26000, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/195807/boeing-vc-137c-sam-26000.