Columbine II, a 1948 Lockheed VC-121 Constellation, which served as the first Air Force One during the Eisenhower administration, lifts off on its flight from Marana Regional Airport to Bridgewater, Virginia, where Karl D. Stolzfus Jr., founder of Dynamic Aviation Inc., will oversee its complete restoration. The aircraft has been in Marana since 2005.
A story in the Arizona Daily Star in 2015 noted, “During a 1953 flight over New York City with President Eisenhower on board, Columbine II — identified at the time as “Air Force 8610” — nearly collided midair with a commercial plane also numbered 8610.”
“The Federal Aviation Administration then designated the call sign Air Force One to any aircraft the president of the United States was aboard.”
“Columbine II was the first.”
The plane was retired and flown to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for storage in 1968. It was sold at a surplus auction in 1970.
Curators with the Smithsonian Institution tracked down the aircraft in 1980 and informed the owner of its past life.
The plane was restored and briefly appeared in air shows, then was parked in Roswell and Santa Fe, New Mexico, until 1998.
Its owners tried to sell the plane at auction, with no luck, and it was parked at the Marana airport in 2005 in a lease agreement.