Air Force One Pays 1st Visit to Lunken

By Joe Wessels

Lunken Airport is known as Cincinnati’s gateway for the world’s flying elite — but it somehow it has never managed to play host to Air Force One.

That changed Monday when President George W. Bush landed on the world’s most famous airplane at the city-owned airport on Cincinnati’s east side to headline a fund raiser for U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot in Hyde Park, about a 10-minute drive from the airport.

“I have been through all the newspaper files and the historical society and the people I have talked to,” said Martha Lunken, a retired Federal Aviation Administration inspector who is researching a book about the airport’s history. “To anyone’s knowledge, Air Force One has never landed at Lunken.”

Bush came Monday in a Boeing 757, a smaller version of the Boeing 747 he typically travels in. The president has access to both planes and the vice president usually uses the 757. Air Force One is the designation for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president. Lunken’s 6,600-foot runway is too short to land the bigger plane, said Fred Anderton, the airport’s manager.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time this happened,” he said. “We get dignitaries and VIPs on a fairly regular basis, but we don’t get the president in on a regular basis, so that makes it pretty exciting.”

Bob Brown, 91, the airport’s superintendent from 1962 until 1979, recalled luminaries like aviator Charles Lindbergh flying into the airport, but never a president.

Many famous people and not-so-famous people, like CEOs of major corporations, use the airport as a convenient means to get to downtown, 15 minutes away. Location was key to the presidential party’s choice to use Lunken, too.

“Logistically, by using Lunken, I think it’s much more efficient,” Anderton said. “By coming in here, they reduce the number of law enforcement jurisdictions that they have to deal with.”

He said the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron just does not afford the same luxuries and poses additional challenges.

“I would suspect crossing the river and having to deal with the bridges, that creates some security situations,” he said. “For me this is really big. It points to the value of the airport.”

The president’s full complement of armored vehicles and limousine arrived by C-17 transport aircraft on Friday and were placed in the Cincinnati Fire Department firehouse that is located at the airport. Firefighters from around the city were invited to the firehouse to photograph the equipment, Anderton said.

It was shortly after that equipment arrived that Marine One, one of the helicopters that transports the President, landed at the airport. It spent the weekend guarded by armed Marines, Anderton said.

Martha Lunken said the decision to land Air Force One at Lunken Airport highlights its desirable location.

“It’s very easy to get anywhere on the east side of the city from Lunken,” she said. “I think whoever calls the shots for where (Bush) is going to land was being logical and practical. It was clearly the way to do it.”

Originally published by Post contributor.

(c) 2007 Cincinnati Post. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.