The White House starts campaign to curb the practice of journalists taking souvenirs from Air Force One as one reporter hands over presidential aircraft pillowcase in discreet rendezvous

The White House starts campaign to curb the practice of journalists taking souvenirs from Air Force One as one reporter hands over presidential aircraft pillowcase in discreet rendezvous

By Dario Leone
Apr 1 2024
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The practice of journalists taking souvenirs from Air Force One

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) has initiated a campaign to curb the practice of journalists taking souvenirs from Air Force One presidential aircraft, Alert 5 first noted. This directive comes after the White House press office noticed missing items following a recent presidential trip.
NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell sent an email to her fellow journalists, saying the long-time and rather common practice of taking items from the presidential aircraft reflects poorly on the press corps as a whole, several people who saw the off-the-record email told Politico.

As reported by UPI, O’Donnell’s directive came after the press office received an email from Brie Moore, the former director in charge of the press on Air Force One saying several items were missing from the plane following a recent swing to the West Coast and offered reporter’s amnesty and anonymity in exchange for returning any items they had lifted, either accidentally or on purpose.

One of the press handlers emailed everyone who had been part of the press pool on that trip. According to someone who saw it, the email was not accusatory.
“It was like, ‘Hey, if you inadvertently wound up taking something off the plane by mistake, we can help facilitate a quiet return,'” they said.

After arranging a discreet meeting with a White House representative, one reporter took the press office up on the offer and handed over an Air Force One-embroidered pillowcase at a rendezvous point near the statue of Andrew Jackson in Liberty Square.

That was the only reporter who responded to the request.

Air Force One souvenirs

Items such as pillowcases, glasses, and even gold-rimmed plates as keepsakes have been taken by journalists traveling on Air Force One for years. This has been acknowledged as a somewhat common practice by the White House, but is aiming to curtail it.

The White House emphasizes that the goal is to deter future thefts and not to punish past souvenir collectors. As one former official explained, the concern lies in the cumulative effect of these “petty” thefts.

The White House starts campaign to curb the practice of journalists taking souvenirs from Air Force One as one reporter hands over presidential aircraft pillowcase in discreet rendezvous

Although the White House offers official merchandise, including presidential M&Ms, journalists seem to value the exclusivity of onboard items: in fact, according to Alert 5, the allure lies in obtaining items that are not commercially available, such as the specific glassware used on Air Force One.

Misha Komadovsky, a White House correspondent for Voice of America, defends his collection of Air Force One memorabilia, which includes a paper cup and a box of M&Ms signed by the president.

“Spoiler alert. They are regular M&Ms in a nice box,” he said.

The VC-25 presidential aircraft

Air Force One is considered the president’s “office in the sky.” It has 4,000 sq feet of floor space spread over three levels.

The mission of the VC-25A aircraft — Air Force One — is to provide air transport for the president of the US.

The presidential air transport fleet consists of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B’s — tail numbers 28000 and 29000 — with the Air Force designation VC-25. When the president is aboard either aircraft, or any Air Force aircraft, the radio call sign is “Air Force One.”

Principal differences between the VC-25 and the standard Boeing 747, other than the number of passengers carried, are the electronic and communications equipment, self-contained baggage loader, front and aft air-stairs, and the capability for in-flight refueling.

Accommodations for the president include an executive suite consisting of a stateroom (with dressing room, lavatory and shower) and the president’s office. A conference/dining room is also available for the president, his family and staff. Other separate accommodations are provided for guests, senior staff, Secret Service and security personnel and the news media.

Two galleys provide up to 100 meals at one sitting. Six passenger lavatories, including disabled access facilities, are provided as well as a rest area and mini-galley for the aircrew. The VC-25 also has a compartment outfitted with medical equipment and supplies for minor medical emergencies.

As we have already explained, the US Air Force (USAF) is converting two Boeing 747-8 aircraft into VC-25B to replace the current VC-25As.

The new aircraft are expected to begin operations in 2024.

VC-25A print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Boeing VC-25A, 89th Airlift Wing, SAM 29000 “Air Force One”

Photo credit: Pete Souza, White House / Executive Office of the President of the United States and U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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