- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Former first lady Nancy Reagan smiled Monday as a jet that had served as Air Force One during her husband’s two terms was moved to its final home at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The 153-foot-long fuselage slowly slipped into the giant birdcage-like steel frame of the new $25 million presidential transportation pavilion. The fuselage and its clipped wings have been in storage since the dismantled Boeing 707 arrived 15 months ago.

Boeing aircraft experts will reassemble the plane as the 87,000-square-foot pavilion is completed. A Marine One helicopter and presidential limousine also will be featured when the addition opens next summer.

Before the ceremony, Mrs. Reagan stopped at the library grave site of her husband, who died June 5 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at 93.

“She paused for a few moments of reflection,” said her chief of staff, Joanne Drake.

The former first lady also shook hands with fifth-graders from a Palmdale elementary school who were among the crowd. As she passed the schoolchildren again after the ceremony, a boy clutched her hand and said, “I adore you.”

She smiled and said, “I adore you, too.”

Also known as “The Spirit of ‘76,” the jet that served as an Air Force One for about three decades was moved in June 2003 about 100 miles by truck from a San Bernardino airport hangar, where it was dismantled.

“Never before has a jet airplane made it across L.A. freeways, let alone up a mountain,” Boeing Co. executive Rudy F. deLeon said during the library ceremony.

He then gave Mrs. Reagan an orange to commemorate her habit of rolling an orange down the aisle of Air Force One for good luck.

During its years of presidential service, the jet also ferried Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and both President Bushes.

The four-engine jet, tail No. 27000, flew 445 missions as Air Force One, covering more than 1.3 million miles, and was used by Mr. Reagan from 1981 to 1989.

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