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Take Your Chance to Sneak a Peek at a Presidential Plane

by Brandon Schultz

Jul 6, 2019

White House, Washington, D.C. © Tomasz Szymanski | Dreamstime

Tips / Travel

You may never be invited onboard Air Force One, but if you’ve ever been curious to peek inside a presidential plane, there’s a place you can do so, and without an invite. Now part of the National Park Service, former President Lyndon Johnson’s Fredericksburg, Texas, ranch is a publicly accessible state park and national historic site, and it offers more of a glimpse into the top office in the land than most presidential homes.

During his presidency, LBJ spent an unusual amount of time away from Washington, D.C. (20 percent by most estimates), serving instead from his beloved ranch house that soon became known as the Texas White House. In time, Secret Service outposts were constructed and, because the president flew back and forth between Texas and Washington, D.C. so frequently, a landing strip was installed on the ranch so Johnson, his family members and visiting dignitaries could arrive directly at the president’s doorstep. The designated plane Johnson used for this commute was dubbed Air Force One-Half and, since 2016, has been permanently parked at the ranch, where visitors can climb the stairs, pass through the tiny door and peek into both the cabin and cockpit.

Elsewhere on the ranch you can tour a small museum containing the president’s car collection, the barn (animals included), Johnson’s childhood schoolhouse and the serene Johnson family cemetery, where the president, his wife and much of his family are buried. Today, parcels of the former ranch are still owned by the family, and that runway built for Air Force One-Half is still in use.

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