A deputation of Chamber of Commerce representatives, including president Miriam Hill and museum members and friends, greeted the new arrivals.
“When the new Aero Commander settles in at Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum, our little Air Force One will be one of only two examples flying in the US that will campaign at various public events throughout the Southwest, promoting Gilmer and the mission of Flight of the Phoenix Aviation Museum,” Dean said.
Dean is making reference to the plane used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on short hauls, such as to Camp David when he was in office 1952 to 1960. Dean previously had acquired a red-and-white Aero Commander, but it could no longer be flown because of a lack of available parts.
The newer plane, which arrived in Gilmer Wednesday, had belonged to IFR Systems, Inc., headquartered in Laramie, Wy. The 90-year old retired Wall Street investor who owned it decided that the Flight of the Phoenix was the best new home for his 40-year- old aircraft. This Aero Commander was built in 1973.
Her pilot, “Chris” Christensen, had served in the Boulder Fire Department for 40 years when he retired from that job.
Afterwards, he started flying the twin-engine aircraft. He had 13 years and over 1,000 hours in the sleek black, gold and white machine.
While Dean has flown Aero Commanders before, this one has some different avionics and other touches that made it handy to have its old pilot along for the first flight of his newest aircraft.
After a barbeque dinner with Dean and his family, Christensen will head back to Wyoming today by more conventional means. He will fly commercially on the return trip to Wyoming.