Bush Foundation

This image shows a potential exhibit for an Air Force One at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

An Air Force One plane that was in use during George H.W. Bush’s presidency could find a permanent home at his library and museum at Texas A&M University.

The George and Barbara Bush Foundation made a formal request to the Air Force for this project. According to foundation president and CEO David Jones, the foundation hopes to put on display one of two Boeing VC-25A planes on the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum’s grounds. The addition, Jones said, would be the second phase of a multipronged effort by the foundation that began with the recent announcement of an exhibit featuring a Marine One helicopter by mid-2021.

“It would be a great addition to the library,” Jones said Monday afternoon. Visitors would be able to walk through the plane and observe its features up close, he said. After being declassified, the plane could be displayed by 2026, Jones said.

Jim McGrath, vice president of the Bush Foundation, said Monday that though still several years away, procuring the plane would positively impact the Bryan-College Station area.

“It would make College Station one of the most visited destinations in the middle part of the U.S.,” he said. “We’re cognizant of the fact that we need to get people to the Bush Presidential Center to tell George and Barbara Bush’s story. We need to draw people to College Station.”

According to Jones and to the Houston Chronicle, which first reported the story, Bush, who died on Nov. 30, made a request in a letter sent to Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, in July 2017. The Bush Library “would love to be the new home of the old Air Force One when it is retired,” he wrote. “ … It might be early, but competition will be tough. Since I was the first President to use the plane, we are thinking that means we are first in line? Perhaps that is a tad simplistic?” 

An additional letter by Texas’ U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, was sent to Wilson in December. On Monday, McGrath described Flores as “instrumental” in reaching out to the Texas congressional declaration to get representatives to sign the letter. 

“We know we’ll probably have some competition for Air Force One, though we don’t yet know who that will be,” he added. “We’re told it’s good to be first in line, and we are.”

According to the Associated Press, the foundation is also working with Union Pacific to acquire the engine of the George Bush 4141 locomotive that carried his casket to the library in December. The train’s display could be completed as early as next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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