Reardon recalls that "shuttle service" began when as a result of 9/11 all commercial airports were closed. "It was a time of great uncertainty, so right after 9/11, Speaker Hastert requested from the Department of Defense airlift support because of airport closures and his position" in presidential succession.
"In 2003, the increased security environment and his vulnerability in a commercial airport led to agreements with DOD for him to use 89th Airlift Wing assets," Reardon says.
There are four types of planes available at the 89th Airlift wing, at nearby Andrews Air Force Base -- the C-20 Hastert once used, C-21s which are even smaller than the C-20 and thus not able to fly nonstop to San Francisco, and the fabled C-32.
There is also the C-37A -- a military version of the Gulf Stream 5, which is about the same size as the C-20, but is able to fly nonstop to California. One military source who asked not to be identified says that it may be that Pelosi and her aides were shown a C-37A and didn't understand that it was different and more potent than a C-20, since they look so similar.
Would Pelosi be willing to use a smaller plane than the lavish C-32 as long as it could fly coast to coast?
"Yes," said a Pelosi aide.
Z Byron Wolf, Dean Norland and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.