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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ronald Reagan Library: Air Force One Boeing’s 707

This past weekend we headed to the Ronald Regan Library in Simi Valley, California to visit for the first time in several years. The last time we went to the library President Reagan was still alive, their special display was Reagan through the years in terms all his media memorabilia, and the Air Force One hanger was yet to be opened. This time, Ashley and I were able to enjoy the company of my parents who were joining us over the Mother’s Day Weekend – it was also their first visit.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is an experience, but it is more than that. It is a legacy to a man who led the free-world into the most productive era in the history of the world. The fact is the man, who struggled with the same disease that both of my Grandmothers struggles with – Alzheimer’s – was impressive in stature and accomplishments and visiting the library brings back the memories of the man that was Ronald Reagan.

Our first stop was in the garden behind the library, the same garden where a piece of the Berlin Wall that Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down in the late 80’s at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. In addition, the lawn there is an exact replica of the lawn from the south side of the White House, in Washington, DC. Then, the area that requires the greatest reverence is the tomb where President Ronald Reagan is buried. Given the memories of his processional to the Simi Valley burned in my mind, it was honoring to visit the place where he is buried.

Berlin Wall at Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library

After we wandered around the outside garden, we headed in to tour the museum. Mother’s Day weekend was the last weekend of the “Red Dress” exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library. We enjoyed the display of the Red Dresses which included Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, and Barbara Bush among others. Next, we watched the video which covered both the Ronnie & Nancy’s political lives. Then we journeyed through the Reagan political career, starting first when he was a child and going through his first and second terms in office. There were also some great videos covering his handling of the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike in 1981, as well as the shooting of President Reagan.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library's Red Dress Library display

Then, the new edition to the library, the coverage of the Boeing 707 aircraft – the first Air Force One that was in service until the early 90’s and carried Reagan all around the world. While the aircraft is in absolutely pristine condition, it is a reminder of how far we have come as a society in the past 20 years. Walking through, I realized that the aircrafts that we fly in today – including my India trip are much larger and have far more amenities than even the President of the United States in back in the 1980’s.

Air Force One, Boeing 707 at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

While the Boeing 707 was a four engine aircraft, it was surprisingly small on the inside. In some ways, the cabin did not feel much larger than the current generation of the 737 aircraft. The 707, when walking by the President’s quarters you actually have to shrink down to fit as it is very tight against the side of the aircraft. When looking at the seats, while leather seem a little 80ish. And most intriguing was the command and control center which have “analog” phones and laptops three times the size of what we see today.

Continuing the tour, we saw the actual vehicles for the Secret Service that escorted the presidential limo on its many trips. The only thing that seemed somewhat modernized was the Marine One helicopter. Perhaps this is because the current generation should support our President in their travels through 2010 and beyond.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with the Air Force One aircraft is impressive; you should visit it if you have not done so already.