The Air Force One Experience, a new exhibit at National Harbor, is offering free tickets to furloughed federal government employees and their families during the federal government shutdown. Tickets are limited to 5,000. The plane, an actual Boeing 747, is scheduled to remain at National Harbor for a short while longer till it moves to the next location in the Northeast. It is available for tours from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily (701 National Harbor Blvd., National Harbor, Md. 20745.)
The plane was developed in Rhode Island and is the brainchild of The Children’s Democracy Project, a for-profit developed by a group of businessmen who wanted to find creative ways to bring learning alive for children and to educate them on history, policies, ideas and processes in American Democracy through unique, hands-on venues that are non-partisan. Visitors will be able to tour the plane and enjoy a 60-minute learning experience via audio tour as well as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to feel what it’s like to be president on Air Force One. Children visiting the plane are encouraged to write a brief essay at the site on where they would go and what they would do if they were president. To date, essays have been placed in a compartment of the plane which serves as a lockbox for the dreams and aspirations of thousands of children.
The best way to tour the plane is via self-guided audio tour that is narrated by United States (ret.) Chief Master Sergeant Howie Franklin. Franklin was a steward on Air Force One for almost 20 years serving Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush (both presidents) and Clinton. Franklin, and other stewards who flew on Air Force One also served as consultants in the authentic recreation of the plane.
It took more than two years and 150 workers to transform the Boeing 747 and create the Air Force One Experience. The plane is approximately 63 feet tall (more than four stories high) and 232 feet long. It has a wing span of approximately 196 feet and weighs around 200 tons. It arrived at National Harbor from Rhode Island this past October via barge.
The front of the plane’s presidential quarters has been restored. There’s a small exhibit hall in the back of the plane where visitors can see the inner workings of a 747, including overhead cabling mechanisms that turn the plane and the actual “black box,” (orange on this plane.) Since most U.S. airlines have retired the 747, known as the “Jumbo Jet” and “Queen of the Skies,” this is a rare glimpse into an icon for long-haul travel and aviation history as well as America’s flying White House.
To book tickets for themselves and their family, furloughed federal government employees should go to www.myairforceone.com and use code FGE19 at checkout. A valid government I.D. must be presented at the box office located on site adjacent to the Air Force One Experience.