‘Air Force One’ temporarily renamed as ‘Special Air Mission 41’ in honor of President George H.W. Bush

December 4, 2018

Air Force One traditionally serves as the presidential aerial command center from 30,000 feet and is a symbol of the U.S. president’s influence and prestige. However, President Donald Trump relinquished the customized Boeing 747 to transport the remains of former President George H.W. Bush to and from the nation’s capital this week in a gesture of honor and respect.

The iconic aircraft has been temporarily renamed “Special Air Mission 41” to pay homage to Bush, the 41st U.S. president.

Highest honor

While the commander-in-chief’s personal plane is only given the callsign Air Force One when the current president is onboard, the White House decided to rename the 4,000 square-foot luxury transport in honor of Bush since Trump would not be flying this week.

Addressing White House press pool reporters on Saturday, Trump discussed modifications the plane underwent in preparation for the upcoming week’s ceremonies. “So what we’re doing with the plane — we land, and then they come in and these are great people that run these aircraft,” he said of the flight crew.

“They are unbelievable. And they’re taking apart — I don’t think this section. The section up front, they’re taking all of the seats out,” the president added, referring to the bow section of the plane.

Despite their public differences, Trump displayed similar deference to the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, who succumbed to brain cancer in late August.

After McCain’s family requested a military aircraft to transport the senator’s remains to the U.S. capitol, Trump took the unexpected step of accommodating the family with Air Force Two, the Boeing C-32A that the president frequently uses for shorter regional flights.

Sky is the limit

Special Air Mission 41’s first stop was in Houston, Texas on Monday, where the crew picked up Bush family members and the late president’s casket before departing for Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews. Boarding and deplaning the aircraft was treated as a solemn occasion, with the Bush family’s Secret Service detachment serving as pallbearers while “Hail to the Chief” echoed across the tarmac.

Lying in state

The 41st President is currently lying in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol until Wednesday morning, and members of the public are free to pay their condolences until 8:45 a.m. that morning. At 11:00 a.m., a state funeral will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, where presidents past and present are expected to appear to show their respects.

Following Wednesday’s events, which Trump has designated as a national day of mourning, the late president’s body will be flown to Houston for a second service at Saint Martin’s Episcopal.

Ultimately, Bush’s remains will be interred at the Bush Presidential Library & Museum in College Station, Texas.

Bush will be buried near his wife of 73 years, the late first lady Barbara Bush, who died in April. He will also be buried next to his daughter Robin, who died tragically at the age of three from leukemia.


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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.