The First US President to Fly on Official Business
Contributor: Barry Fetzer
What was unique is now so commonplace that we don’t even bat an eye when the President flies in everything from helicopters (devices that according to newsman Harry Reasoner “…don’t want to fly. Helicopters are maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other; and if there is any disturbance in the delicate balance, the helicopter stops flying immediately and disastrously.”) to jet airplanes.
So, we let our Presidents fly in helicopters? Yes, we (“We the People”) do despite what Harry Reasoner thought about them. But if you had any inkling of the lengths to which we (the Marines) go to ensure that the HMX-1 helicopters in which our President flies are air worthy and that the risk to our President and his family is as low as it possibly can be, you’d be amazed. And humbled. Same for Air Force One!
Once unique to commonplace. That sounds like a common theme in today’s world, eh?
According to History.com, “On January 14, 1943, Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first president to travel on official business by airplane. Crossing the Atlantic by air, Roosevelt flew in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper to a World War II strategy meeting with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in North Africa. With German U-boats taking a heavy toll on American marine traffic in the Atlantic, Roosevelt’s advisors reluctantly agreed to send him via airplane. Roosevelt, at a frail 60 years old, gamely made the arduous 17,000-mile round trip.”
Photo of the Dixie Clipper courtesy WordPress.com
From WordPress.com, “The Casablanca Conference (codenamed SYMBOL) was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War II. In attendance were United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Also attending and representing the Free French forces were Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud; they played minor roles and were not part of the military planning. Premier Joseph Stalin had declined to attend, citing the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad as requiring his presence in the Soviet Union. In order to attend, Roosevelt flew in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper — becoming the first U.S. president to travel on official business by airplane.”
From History.com, “The secret and circuitous journey began on January 11, with the plane stopping several times over four days to refuel and for its passengers to rest. Roosevelt and his entourage left Florida, touched down in the Caribbean, continued down the southern coast of South America to Brazil and then flew across the Atlantic to Gambia. They reached Casablanca on January 14. After a successful meeting with Churchill, as well as some sightseeing and visits to the troops, Roosevelt retraced the route back to the United States, celebrating his 61st birthday somewhere over Haiti.”