Image: President Barack Obama boards Air Force One
Jim Watson  /  AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on Thursday for his first flight. Obama is traveling to the House Democrats Issues Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, for his first trip.
updated 2/5/2009 7:28:54 PM ET 2009-02-06T00:28:54

President Barack Obama likes his new ride.

Before taking off Thursday on Air Force One for his first trip as commander-in-chief, Obama told reporters traveling with him that the plane is "spiffy" and showed off his new crew jacket with his name stitched on it.

The massive blue-and-white specially outfitted 747 makes a statement wherever it goes. Obama said he had been a guest on Air Force One with former President George W. Bush.

"What do you think of this spiffy ride here? It's not bad," he said to reporters sitting in the back on the plane.

The Marine One helicopter ride from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base also got the nod. "Very smooth, very impressive," Obama said, adding that the view is "spectacular."

The Air Force One trip Thursday to a House Democrats' retreat in Williamsburg, Va., is a telling choice.

"He's saying that he's willing to go anywhere and talk to anybody in order to get a recovery and reinvestment plan that moves this economy forward," press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Rode a smaller jet
Air Force One is the call sign for any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the president. For the short flight, Obama didn't ride on the big 747 but one of the smaller jets that fill out the presidential fleet.

George W. Bush's first flight as president may sound familiar. Two weeks after his swearing-in, and following the bitter 2000 recount battle, he went to a resort near Pittsburgh to talk to skeptical Democratic lawmakers. The subject was his tax cuts.

For Bill Clinton, the first flight was to Detroit for a televised town hall meeting, a format seized on during the 1992 campaign. Calling on the first questioner, Clinton said: "I suspect this is going to be about, well, 'It's the economy, stupid.'"

In 1989, Bush's father, a former Navy pilot, took his first Air Force One trip as president to the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. Long before his son's notorious "Mission Accomplished" speech, Bush spoke on an aircraft carrier — about wasteful military spending.

Ronald Reagan, at 69 the oldest man to assume the presidency, took a more leisurely approach. His first out-of-town trip was by helicopter to a restful weekend at Camp David in Maryland. His maiden Air Force One trip was to California — and a restful weekend at his ranch in the Santa Ynez mountains.

Presidents invariably reveal their personality on board.

The garrulous Clinton would restlessly roam the jet, chatting with aides and reporters or sitting down to play hearts. The younger Bush usually stayed put up front and hardly ever saw the press compartment; aides warned him offhand remarks there could cause trouble.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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