The Flying White House

Presidential airplanes, past and present.

(U.S. Air Force / NASM)

The Sacred Cow

(National Archives)

Reluctant to rely on commercial flights for future presidential travel, the U.S. Army Air Forces commissioned Douglas Aircraft to build the first official presidential aircraft. The C-54 Skymaster, nicknamed the Sacred Cow, carried FDR to his third and final wartime conference in Yalta in 1945. After Roosevelt’s death, President Harry Truman used the Sacred Cow frequently. Presidential pilot Henry Myers considered Truman his favorite passenger; after takeoff, the easy-going president would usually appear at the cockpit, ready to play poker and tell stories to the crew. Truman so respected Myers that when the pilot considered taking a commercial job, the president offered him a general’s star and a position as an advisor. Myers respectfully declined.

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