EVERETT, Wash. – Air Force One today made a rare return to the factory and airfield of its birth, ferrying President Obama to Paine Field, home of U.S. plane maker Boeing.
“I want to thank all of you for also giving me a pretty smooth ride,” Obama told a crowd of several hundred workers inside an aircraft assembly facility here – the largest building in the world.
“As some of you may know, Air Force One was built right here in Everett 25 years ago. In fact, one of my guys that I met during the tour worked on the plane. So I told him he did a pretty good job. It’s flying smooth,” he said.
The specially outfitted 747-200B was assembled and tested for flight in 1990 before entering official service under President George H.W. Bush, according to the company.
Its first flight Sept. 6, 1990, took Bush from Washington, D.C., to Kansas, Florida and back to Washington.
“President Bush proudly gave some reporters a tour during the first flight, showing off features unimaginable on earlier aircraft: beds in the forward cabin, a fully-equipped hospital bay and a presidential bathroom with twin sinks and a full shower stall,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton, who was aboard the maiden voyage.
“Reporters were just glad to finally have first class-sized seats instead of narrow coach seats for long international flights,” she added.
The plane’s 4,000 square feet include a conference-dining room, quarters for the president and two kitchens capable of churning out 100 meals at once, according to the company.
The aircraft also has top secret security and communications technologies and the ability to be refueled in flight, making it truly a traveling White House. The government owns two of the planes – tail numbers 28000 and 29000 – rotating them in and out of service to allow for regular maintenance.
As for the colors, powder blue and white, they were selected by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy for the first presidential jet (a Boeing 707) in 1962 and continued ever since.
The last sitting president to visit the Boeing headquarters was Bill Clinton in 1993.
This post has been updated from an earlier version.