This November will mark 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Texas and the subsequent swearing in of President Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One.
The Nu-Tek Simulations division of Nu-Tek Aircraft Instruments Inc. of Augusta, has begun conducting the restoration and configuration of a replica plane the company will present in the first-ever JFK Air Force One Exhibit at Love Field, Dallas in November. Kansas Aviation Museum gave a one-time sneak peak at the behind-the-scenes construction in preparation for a public viewing at the Cockpit Fest this weekend at the museum.
Inside the plane, the president's quarters, crew officers' work stations and the state room where Johnson was sworn in as president already have desks and chairs to help form outlines, and there is a communication station just outside the cockpit door. But much is still in the works. Steve Cannaby of Nu-Tek Simulation is the project director who leads the 10 or so workers, including some Boeing IDS volunteers, during the construction phase. Cannaby and his crew have plenty of experience with planes.
"We've done other Air Force One projects before. We did one for the Ronald Reagan Library, and we did one for the 2008 DNC," Cannaby said.
The replica plane originally had a Nixon configuration after being used in the 1995 Oliver Stone film "Nixon" before getting sold to current owner Jim Warlick. Reconfiguring the replica to match JFK's plane has had its challenges.
"It's a daunting task," Cannaby said. "The airplane is old, 707 parts are extremely hard to come by [as is] all of the Kennedy information, because they only flew it for less than a year....The photography and the images and data we have is limited."
Nu-Tek representative Daron Clinesmith brings a unique perspective to help contribute to the replica's design. Clinesmith once served as a crew member aboard Air Force One during the 1980s and knows what it was like to fly with the president firsthand. If nothing else, Clinesmith wants to help give people a taste of real history.
"It's really neat on the history side. It's pretty significant," Clinesmith said of the JFK project. "We're doing it respectfully...It's kind of neat to see this come together and be a part of that remembrance of that day. It's a sad day, but it's also one of the significant points of time in history."
After its inaugural display in Texas, the JFK Exhibit will be part of a traveling exhibit that will make its way around the country.