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Original Air Force One stuck in Arizona desert

Since 2005, the Lockheed VC-121 Constellation 48-610 that was the first aircraft to be designated as Air Force One has sat in an Arizona airport, slowly deteriorating due to the light and heat of the sun. 

The plane's caretaker, Timothy Coons, told the Arizona Daily Star that it would require 30 days of work and $200,000 to restore the plane to its former state. 

"Like any machine like that, the interiors are slowly degrading because of the heat," Coons said.

The plane, known as "Columbine II" in a nod to the flower of Mamie Eisenhower's home state of Colorado is owned by Harry Oliver of Santa Fe, N.M., who bought it from his business partner Mel Christler. Christler, along with four other people, bought the plane at a 1970 surplus auction.

The plane was built in 1948 in Burbank, Calif. It only served as Eisenhower's official presidential aircraft for the first year of the 34th president's administration, becoming the primary backup plane. After a brief stint with commercial carrier Pan American, it carried Eisenhower for the last time in 1959. The plane then was a VIP carrier at Washington's National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base before it was retired in 1968.

Christler and some partners spent $150,000 to restore the plane in 1990 and the aircraft was part of the celebrations to mark the centennial of Eisenhower's birth. But in the intervening decades, the plane has dropped out of public view. 

"We're trying to find a good home," Coons said. "It's not doing any justice just sitting here."

Click for the story from the Arizona Daily Star

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