Air Force One

It might even seem, to Mrs. Kennedy's shocked gaze,
that the Johnsons were "taking over" abruptly.
Until a few hours ago, they would not even be invited aboard AF-1
because security dictated that the President and the Vice-President
must fly on different planes.


The people on the plane gravitated into two groups.
The Johnson people sat forward, the Kennedys aft...
For two hours and twelve minutes,
the two camps remained apart.

To Orwell Today,

Hello There,

After the assassination, who flew home on Air Force 2? If both pilots were in Air Force 1, I guess the co-pilot flew Airforce 2?

Thank You,
Richard Potter,
Researcher 40+ Years on JFK

Greetings Richard,

After the assassination AIR FORCE ONE and AIR FORCE TWO each flew back to Washington with their original pilot, first officer, flight engineer and crew, but some of the passengers were switched around - ie some who arrived on AF-1 went back on AF-2 and some who arrived on AF-2 went back on AF-1.

For example, Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, who flew with Kennedy to Dallas in AIR FORCE ONE (and was in the car with Johnson during the assassination) was turned away by Johnson's men at the bottom of the stairs to AIR FORCE ONE and told to get on board AIR FORCE TWO for the trip back to Washington. See LBJ OF ELMS ON ELM.

Lyndon Johnson - as soon as JFK was declared dead at Parkland Hospital - insisted on being driven to Love Field airport and boarding AIR FORCE ONE because he was now the President. He and his entourage, including wife Lady Bird and his aides, staff and Secret Service, had their luggage removed from AIR FORCE TWO and loaded onto AIR FORCE ONE.

When Jackie and JFK's entourage arrived at Love Field at around 2:15pm (after literally escaping from Parkland Hospital) they loaded JFK's casket into the back of AIR FORCE ONE without realizing that LBJ and about twenty of his entourage were on board.

Here's an excerpt from Jim Bishop's 1968 book THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SHOT which explains some of the confusion aboard AIR FORCE ONE and AIR FORCE TWO:

"...The crew of Air Force One monitored the Secret Service. They had heard the walkie-talkies discuss an unannounced departure from Parkland Hospital. Colonel Swindal ordered the crew to unscrew two double seats adjacent to the rear entrance of the plane and to secure them in the tail.

"The box containing the President's remains could be carried up there and lashed to eyebolts in the floor. He called the tower and asked for taxi instructions. They gave him wind, barometric setting, clearance on Runway 31, and a handoff to Fort Worth FAA after passing the outer perimeter.

"He didn't start an engine. A Secret Service agent came forward and told the crew that the Johnson party was already aboard and the Vice-President was waiting for Mrs. Kennedy. A generator truck stood below, whining at the nose of the air giant, but the crew engineer did not turn the air conditioning on.

The captain of Air Force Two was told to open his hatches. Some luggage came from his plane and was carried by hand to Air Force One. Whoever was in charge was confused, because he began to take some of the Kennedy luggage from Air Force One and place it on Two....

"The men in Love Field tower had a respite. The empty runways, with one long diagonal, looked like a crooked capital H. Air Force One had twice asked for taxi instructions, but the generator was still standing under its nose, breathing power into the bird....

"Look," one of the tower men said. An ambulance with red blinker showing was coming off Mockingbird Lane into the airport. It was followed by two cars, all at high speed. Two Dallas officers and some Secret Service men ran to the fence and watched the small motorcade return John F. Kennedy to the place where he had shaken many hands....

"The rear ramp of AF-1 was opened briefly and a host of Secret Service men performed a final service for a dead chieftain. They carried the bronze casket up. It weighed 400 pounds. The body weighed 180. The men staggered and stepped forward and tilted the big box and, halfway up, appeared to drop it. Two crewmen came down the steps and tried to wedge themselves along the sides. At last it got to the top, and a group of Dallas citizens stood behind the fence, unable to contain the tears...

"The door slammed shut. The casket was dragged across the floor. O'Brien noticed that a space had been made for the casket. He told the agents to secure it on the left side of the plane barely inside the rear door.

JFK Plane

"Mrs. Kennedy dropped into a seat at the breakfast nook opposite. She appeared to be spent. The woman slumped as though lifeless. Kenneth O'Donnell motioned for the rear door to be secured and guarded. He requested that the ramp be pulled away....He looked up, as the crew was tossing the bracing straps over the casket, and saw General Godfrey McHugh. "Run forward and tell Colonel Swindal to get the plane out of here," he said. McHugh went through the corridor as fast as he could... He told Colonel Swindal to take off for Washington at once. "The President," he said, "is aboard".

"...The passengers were growing in number. There was no passenger manifest. Some, like Liz Carpenter, secretary to Mrs. Johnson, reported to AF-2 and were told that the Johnsons were now on AF-1. The Kennedy people were aboard because this was the aircraft they had arrived on. Malcolm Kilduff, standing at the foot of the front ramp waiting for the newspaper pool car, was astonished to hear that President Johnson wanted to speak to him at once. The assistant press secretary did not know that Johnson was on this plane.

"Few others knew about it. Larry O'Brien, still crouching over the casket, looked up to see the President and Mrs. Johnson coming down the aisle from the private stateroom. He was flabbergasted. The man was President. This was Air Force One. He saw the Johnsons move silently over to the breakfast nook. Mrs. Kennedy looked up and emerged from her reverie. There can be no doubt that she was surprised to see them aboard this aircraft. It is understandable if she felt resentful, because the trip home to Washington would normally be a "wake," a private mourning.

"It might even seem, to her shocked gaze, that the Johnsons were "taking over" abruptly. Until a few hours ago, they would not even be invited aboard AF-1 because security dictated that the President and the Vice-President must fly on different planes. Normally, she was accustomed to seeing them perpetually at the foot of the ramp, welcoming the President and the First Lady of the land to each city. Sometimes there were three or four such welcomes in a day..."

"On the flight deck, General Godfrey McHugh demanded to know why the plane had not taken off, as he had ordered. The pilot, Colonel Swindal, had received orders and counter-orders; he had asked for taxi instructions several times and had not taxied anywhere. The general made it plain that, as a brigadier general, he ranked the colonel, and demanded that Air Force One start at once. Malcolm Kilduff, passing the communications shack, heard the voices and told Swindal not to take off.

"The colonel hit the starter switch for the number three engine. It caught fire and emitted a dismal whine. With number three going, he could dismiss the generator truck below the nose and start the remaining three engines on power from number three. Then, if these government officials in the back could agree on one premise - to leave or not to leave - the colonel was prepared to obey.

"Someone told Kilduff that the plane must leave at once. With extended patience he said, "Why?" He was told that Kenneth O'Donnell had ordered the plane to leave. Holding his temper in check, Kilduff said: "He may want to take off, but he isn't in charge any more. Johnson is now President." The word filtered quickly to the aft section and it was interpreted as another indication of Lyndon Johnson's merciless grab for power. It was O'Donnell who kept goading McHugh to go forward and "get this plane out of here," although O'Donnell had heard from the President that he was going to be sworn in before takeoff..."

The swearing-in ceremony as previously described in the articles: LBJ OATH-SWEARING WITNESSES and LBJ'S FAMOUS PHOTO OP and LBJ SWORE ON JFK'S BIBLE

Now, quoting again from Bishop's book THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SHOT:

"All the engines were shrieking. Swindal's first officer had a flight plan asking for 25,000 feet out of Love Field...Estimated time of arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., would be 1803 local time. The plane received an "all clear" from Gate 24, and Swindal moved the throttle settings up a notch. The big plane moved forward, rocking a little on the concrete...

"The first officer called V-1 and rotating speed. Swindal pulled the yoke back gently and lifted off. He was well out between Walnut Hills and Letot before permission was granted to turn the plane northeast for Washington. The ugly rubber legs were tucked up. The big ship climbed as it always did, without strain. The colonel was not content with 25,000 feet. He asked for 41,000. The weather chart showed a high-flying jet stream moving slowly northeast. It was close to the absolute ceiling for a Boeing 707....AF-1 kept climbing for half an hour. The patchwork quilt of farms below assumed almost stationary figures. The sun on the port-side became brazen, and the shades remained drawn. The color of the Texas sky changed from pale blue to baby blue to midnight blue. The sky became darker and darker and the plane seemed to be slower and slower. At 625 statute miles per hour, it looked like a piece of confetti pinned to the heavens.

"One of the stewards thought: "How strange. For the first time in history, we have two Presidents aboard." On the radio, the first officer heard an announcement from a plane still at Love Field: "This is Air Force Two. Our designation has been changed to SAM nine seven zero. We will depart for Washington, under present instructions, at 1514 local time."...

"The people on the plane gravitated into two groups. The Johnson people sat forward, the Kennedys aft...For two hours and twelve minutes, the two camps remained apart...

"Glancing at the bronze box, Mrs. Kennedy began to think of Abraham Lincoln. The buoyant, youthful sophisticated John F. Kennedy became fused in the shadow of death with the wary, cavernous man who had sealed the fractures in the union with the blood of its best boys. He, too, had had his Johnson; he, too, had died on a Friday; he, too, had been sitting with his wife; he, too, had been shot in the back of the head; in death he, too, had turned over the affairs of the nation to a man who was earthy, a vindictive Southerner who was politically alienated from his area."[end quoting from pages 227 to 253]

All the best,
Jackie Jura


Reader David says that "Air Force One" is whatever plane the president is on

WWII pilot flew Air Force Two (...While in Washington, John Kistler took command of Air Force Two, the plane used by Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson. Kistler admits he was glad to end his time aboard the vice president's plane. "To tell you the truth, I really didn't appreciate him," Kistler said of Johnson. "He did too many things that were against the law. I couldn't stand it."...)

JFK Ex-Air Force One commander dies. Arlington National Cemetary, Apr 27, 2006 (...Retired Air Force Col. James B. Swindal flew the body of the slain president to Washington from Dallas in 1963, died April 25 at Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach, Fla. He was 88 and had complications from a broken hip....)

JFK's Air Force One pilot dies. San Francisco Chronicle. Apr 30, 2006 (....On Air Force One, he flew Kennedy to West Berlin in June 1963 to give the "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in support of democracy. In interviews, Col. Swindal said he shared "small talk" with Kennedy, who rarely stayed long in the small cockpit because he wore a back brace. "The Kennedys invited me to join them for lunch a couple of times, but I couldn't ever do it," Col. Swindal told the Chicago Tribune in 2001. "You fellows in the media would've had a field day if I were back there eating steak in the president's dining room and a near-miss occurred." ...)


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~