Your own Air Force One for as little as $50k

WASHINGTON Talk about owning a piece of history.

If you've got $50,000 handy, you can bid on a U.S. Air Force aircraft that served as Air Force One.

Before you get out your checkbook, bear in mind the plane is NOT one of the big 747s most often associated with presidential travel. Those are still very much in use and were recently refurbished at a cost of millions.

Instead, the GSA is auctioning one of the DC-9 jetliners from the 89th Airlift Wing, which operates the presidential fleet.

According to the historian of the 89th, the plane - tail number N681AL - served in the presidential/VIP fleet for three decades: from February 1975 to September 2005.

Not only did it fly presidential missions, it served vice presidents as Air Force Two. It also transported the secretaries of state, defense and other members of the Cabinet. The plane's history includes service to chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Pentagon brass. It also took members of Congress on trips and/or junkets known as CODELs - for congressional delegations.

The historian says the plane's passengers occasional included foreign heads of state and other dignitaries from abroad.

Air Force records show the last time this aircraft served as Air Force One was President Clinton's trip to Buffalo, N.Y., and to Willow Grove Naval Air Station, Pa., on January 20, 1999. It was a road trip to spotlight his State of the Union agenda. He was joined on the trip by Vice President Gore, the first lady and Mrs. Gore.

As a reporter on the White House beat, I've flown a number of presidential trips aboard the DC-9. Its military designation was C-9 and it was used to fly the president to airports whose runways weren't long enough to accommodate the larger aircraft that most often serve as Air Force One.

President Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on April 23, 2010 to leave for Asheville, N.C.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

On a weekend trip to Asheville, N.C., in 2010, Pres Obama flew aboard a C-9 that was still in service. He had a nice cabin up front, but the seats in the back for the press were three across and not very comfortable.

GSA starts accepting bids for the aircraft on May 15th and has set $50,000 as a minimum offer.

If you want to inspect the plane before submitting your bid, you'll have to travel to Phoenix/Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona. But before you get aboard, you'll have to put down a bid deposit of $50,000.

If the plane is a bit pricey for an aviation fixer-upper, GSA lists many other aircraft with less of a history on its auction website. It has 1977 Cessna for sale with a starting bid of $100. Unlikely any U.S. presidents flew on it.

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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