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Obama Goes Airborne Today For First Time As President

Seventeen days into his presidency, Barack Obama gets his first rides aboard the aircraft that serve as the airborne White House.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
He takes his first trip out of Washington this afternoon – flying to historic Williamsburg, Virginia to attend and address what House Democrats are calling their "Issues Conference."

Mr. Obama will make the familiar walk across to the South Lawn to one of the VH-3D Sirkorsky Sea King helicopters that serve as Marine One. He'll take the ten minute flight to Andrews Air Force Base, where he'll board the most recognized aircraft in the world: Air Force One.

There are two 747s that most frequently serve as the presidential aircraft – they are identical except for their tail numbers: 28000 and 29000. But there are other aircraft assigned to the Presidential Airlift Group including 757s and Gulfstream IIIs. There have been a few occasions when even a C-17 cargo plane has been used as Air Force One too.

And though the 747s are magnificent aircraft with extraordinary capabilities, the planes have been in service since 1990 – and the Air Force last month put out the word to defense contractors to start planning for the job of building 3 new jumbo jets for presidential use - ready for delivery in the year 2017. Lockheed Martin already has the Navy contract to build a new fleet of helicopters for HMX-1 – the U.S. Marine Corps unit that operates and maintains the choppers that serve as Marine One.

With the new president comes a new pilot. Col. Scott Turner takes over the prestigious job of flying the president from Col. Mark Tillman, who was President Bush's pilot for the last eight years. And when a new President takes his first ride aboard Air Force One – all aboard receive a certificate signed by the pilot – certifying their presence aboard the Inaugural Flight. It's a great souvenir.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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