Local man crewed on Air Force One: 'The memories are what’s most special'

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

For as long as he can remember, Bagdad resident Tom Scott wanted to be an Air Force mechanic and work on the biggest planes in the U.S.

When that dream became a reality, it wasn’t long before he was a crew member for Air Force One.

After retiring from the Air Force, Tom Scott moved to Bagdad.

“My whole family was into aviation,” Scott said, pointing to a photo that shows his cousin flying upside down in a biplane formerly owned by WWI German Flying Ace von Richthofen. “My uncle owned Carolina Skyways in Charleston, South Carolina, and my cousin owned an aviation company, so aviation was in my blood.”

Scott entered the Air Force in 1966, and after six different assignments, including a tour in Vietnam, landed at Andrews Air Force base, home to Air Force One and the fleet that serves the legislative branch.

Tom Scott at President Ronald Reagan's desk aboard Air Force One.

Scott served as a crew chief for all eight years of the Reagan administration. He also flew many times with Air Force Two, as well as with Congress members.

“I served as crew chief, which means that I was in control of all maintenance on the plane,” Scott said. “Whenever repairs needed to be made, my name was on the dotted line signifying that the craft was air worthy.”

He went on to explain that the aircraft flying our elected officials frequently carried a maintenance technician.

Among the souvenirs Tom Scott kept from his days aboard Air Force One are President Ronald Reagan's seatbelt and jelly bean dish.

“If we were going into sensitive areas where the mechanics might be questionable, we went along,” Scott said.

When asked about memorable moments from his days at Andrews, Scott recounted a story that many Americans remember today.

“During the Iran hostage crisis, we flew a plane to West Point, where the rescued hostages were brought," Scott said. "We labeled that plane ‘Freedom One,’ and on the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base, we were given clearance to do a low-level fly-over around the White House and the DC area so that our guests would feel properly welcomed home. As we flew into Andrews, the ground was covered by a huge flag, and thousands of people were there.”

Tom Scott poses for a photo with his service memorabilia.

Other memories include taxiing Air Force One to "the spot" to accept Marine One, which would transport the president from the White House to Andrews.

“I was pretty good at stopping on the X,” he laughed. “I’ve flown with numerous congressmen and senators. John Glen was fun; he was an incredibly personable guy.   

“All of the memorabilia: photos with dignitaries, Reagan’s jelly bean dish and seat belt, plaques and gold coasters, etc., are things that I cherish, but the memories are what’s most special,” Scott added.