1957: A Pioneering Flight for a U.S. President

July 12, 1957

Dwight D. Eisenhower made transportation history when he became the first U.S. president to fly in a helicopter. This aviation “first” occurred after he went on board a Bell H-13J helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House.

This helicopter had been purchased by the U.S. Air Force, and it was piloted by Major Joseph E. Barrett. The aircraft transported Eisenhower to the Maryland-based presidential country retreat at Camp David, which is about 62 miles (99.8 kilometers) north of Washington, D.C. 

This first-of-a-kind trip marked the start of the 34th president’s almost weekly flights to either that Maryland getaway or his farm just north of there in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In the time since Eisenhower pioneered the use of that mode of transportation at the presidential level, helicopters have become a familiar and frequently deployed means of short-range travel for each of his successors. 

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on President Eisenhower’s trailblazing helicopter flight on 12 July 1957, please check out https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/ike-and-first-presidential-helicopters

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