The Boeing VC-137C is the designation of two United States Air Force passenger transportation aircraft, a military version of the Boeing 707. The second aircraft was Serial Number 72-7000 and used the call sign SAM (Special Air Mission) 27000.
Air Force One is the air traffic control call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. From 1972 to 2001, the presidential fleet used this specifically configured, highly customized Boeing 707 series aircraft with Air Force designation VC-137C. While SAM 27000 was referred to as "Air Force One" only while the president was on board, the term is commonly used to describe aircraft normally used and maintained by the U.S. Air Force solely for the president.
Gerald Ford used SAM 27000 somewhat frequently, especially for his trips abroad, such as his meeting with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev in Vladivostok in 1974. After experiencing two assassination attempts, Ford returned to the plane to hear his wife Betty quip, "Well how did they treat you in San Francisco?" During the Ford years, there was a growing number of airline hijackings and the threat of terrorism expanded, so both SAM 27000 and 26000 were equipped with defense systems to detect heat-seeking missiles. It was President Ford who first decided that the name of the aircraft itself should be Air Force One, along with the call sign.
Jimmy Carter made some changes to Air Force One that reflected his personal values. Carter preferred a more simplistic style of living, something he made apparent on SAM 27000; he even insisted that he and his family carry their own luggage onboard. Carter made regular use of the plane both for domestic use and for use abroad. Possibly one of Carter's most famous trips was to Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the nuclear scare of 1979. In 1980, after the American Hockey Team defeated the Soviet Team, Carter sent SAM 27000 to pick up the team and bring them back to Washington, D.C. for a congratulatory ceremony. Carter's last trip aboard 27000 was actually taken as a former president, when Ronald Reagan sent Carter to Germany to welcome home the 52 American hostages that were held captive in Iran on behalf of the American people.
Ronald Reagan was SAM 27000's most frequent flyer, flying longer and farther than all the other presidents who flew on it, traveling more than 675,000 miles aboard it. Reagan used Air Force One to travel to all parts of the world to pursue his ambitious diplomatic goals, taking three trips to Asia, six to Europe, and twelve trips to foreign places in the Western Hemisphere. Reagan flew to three of his four summit meetings with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev aboard SAM 27000: Geneva, Reykjavík, and Moscow (one was held in Washington, D.C.).
While traveling on SAM 27000, Reagan spent most of his time in his forward cabin, but occasionally made visits to senior staff lounge for meetings with his aides. Reagan seldom slept on the plane, even on long journeys. First Lady Nancy Reagan was also enthusiastic about Air Force One, recalling the first time she flew on the plane: "Ronnie read reports and attended to paperwork, while I kept busy writing letters to friends back home on Air Force One letterhead. Look at me, I'm flying on Air Force One!" The Reagans last flight aboard the plane came on January 20, 1989, when the now-former President and First Lady flew back to California.
George H.W. Bush was the last president to utilize SAM 27000 as the primary means of presidential travel, for in 1990 the plane was replaced by two Boeing 747-200B jumbo jets, designated VC-25, although SAM 27000 was kept as a backup plane for Bush during the remainder of his presidency, as well as those of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Its last Presidential trip was August 29, 2001, when it delivered George W. Bush and Laura Bush to TSTC Waco Airport en route to their Prairie Chapel Ranch. On September 8, 2001, SAM 27000 was decommissioned and flown to San Bernardino International Airport in California. It was dismantled there and later driven in pieces to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, where it was reassembled and is currently on public display in the museum.