Flying, flight and general aircraft enthusiasts may not know much about the aircraft named the Douglas Dolphin. Only 58 of them were built. Yet, this small aircraft occupies a unique place in US travel history in general and presedential travel in particular.
The first US president to board an aircraft was Theodore Roosevelt, he flew in an early Wright Flyer on the 11th of October 1910. But the first president to have an aircraft specifically for presedential use was Franklin D. Roosevelt. His aircraft was a Douglas Dolphin Amphibian and it was delivered in 1933.
The Douglas Dolphin was as its name suggests an amphibious flying boat. It was initially designed to be a luxury flying yacht with no capabilities of making a solid ground landing, it was then known as the Douglas Sinbad.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was indeed the first President to have the Douglas Dolphin procured for his official use but still in all, he never actually ever flew on the aircraft. The Douglas Dolphin was modified to accommodate the needs of America’s Commander-in-Chief. These changes included the addition of a sleeping compartment and luxury upholstery to the seats. The aircraft remained in commission from 1933-1939.
The threat from German submarines made it increasingly important for VIP people who were travelling across the Atlantic to do so via air. In 1943 en route to the Casablanca Conference, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on a Dixie Clipper, which was a Boeing 314 flying boat. The Boeing 314 that transported Roosevelt was piloted and crewed by a Pan-Am crew.
Air Force One as it is known today did not become the official entity that it is today until 1943. This includes many fascinating incidents and anecdotes along the way on the official US President Air Carrier.