"The Hapa Haole Journal"
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 5:22 AM
The HHJ: Air Force One
It's a beautiful day for a drive through the
country. Passing by greenhouses and acres of fields of unidentifiable
crops and orange groves, I'm headed to see Air Force One at the Ronald
in Simi Valley.
Except for the cultivation, the land growth is brown, parched from the
lack of rain and temperatures in the 90s. Still, the hills are beautiful
in that wild manner ungroomed territory has. When I reach Simi Valley,
the tall trees, grass, and flowers lining the road are a shock in
The car climbs the hill to the museum and I grab the first available
parking stall. Walking to the entrance, I'm lured by the three-quarter replication
of the White House rose garden and resist, pausing by the fountain in
the center courtyard, instead. Entering an open corridor, I face the
Information Desk before turning to the right and proceeding to the
admission counter where I pay for my admission and an audio tour guide.
Looking about, it seems like a maze; I ask a docent for the quickest way
to Air Force One.
"Is it okay to skip all this stuff and come back to it later? I
really came for the plane."
"Oh, sure. Lots of people do. Here, follow me." She leads me
through to the passage going to the jet's pavilion.
I open the door and walk down the aisle. There it is, a shining wing
from the retired Boeing 707 stretching so close to the second floor
balcony that I could reach out and touch it but for the signs warning me
The entire jet shines like a new car, washed and waxed. Angled slightly
upwards to appear as though ascending in flight, it faces a glass wall
beyond which is nothing but countryside. The people that work there are
lucky for such a beautiful view of the mountains.
Passing by the displays commemorating Reagan's travels, I walk around to
the opposite side where the line has formed to enter the plane. A
professional photographer waits to photograph each party just before
they enter. I decline, having no desire for "Look, I was
here," types of photographs.
For such a large vehicle, the interior seems nearly as close as that of
a 36-foot ketch. The cockpit is cramped and I discover that what I
thought were knobs lining the ceiling are fuses.
Behind the cockpit is a closet and a small galley. On the other side is
the communication center.
Behind the galley is the first stateroom where the President conducted
business while en route. The second stateroom belonging to the First
Lady, follows. Surprisingly, the couch is smaller in person than the
photo on the wall with Nancy Reagan sitting on it depicts it to be.
After that is seating for Air Force journalists, the main galley, and
more seating for members of the press who are selected by lottery.
After that, you're walking out the back door. Like I said, a small
interior for such a large plane.
I lingered, admiring the exterior and it's view for a while before
ascending to look over his motorcade and Marine One, the Presidential
Next, I cruised the small gift store before returning upstairs to go
through the exhibits. Starting my audio tour at 30-something to match my
location, I heard mostly excerpts of Reagan's speeches at his various
Then, I backtracked through the time-line exhibits starting with the
Oval Office, a beautiful full-scale replica of it during Reagan's
tenure, to gifts the President and First Lady received, her gowns, to
his and Nancy's movie careers, and all the way back to a replica of the
kitchen of his boyhood home.
Outside, beyond the Information Desk, is a section of the Berlin Wall, a
replica of the White House South Lawn, donated by Merv Griffin, and the
All in all, I spent over five hours there. It was fascinating and
totally worth it.