It’s a 145-foot-long bird that flew Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy across the world from 1959 to 1962, then VPs and VIPs through the ’90s.
Now a Jacksonville firefighter paramedic whose off-duty job sees him detailing Corvettes and Cadillacs is part of an elite team shining up America’s first Air Force One from the silver tips of its 130.8-foot wingspan to its blue-painted Pratt and Whitney jet engines.
Mark Elliott of Fire Station 31 on Hillman Drive also owns Firehouse Auto Spa. He was selected out of hundreds of detailers nationwide for the Air Force One team at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Elliott is one of 50 working this week on automotive and aircraft detailer Renny Doyle’s team, The Detail Mafia. Job one: Polish Air Force One, a 258,000-pound Boeing 707-120, then work on 15 other historic planes through Sunday.
“I was just amazed to be a part of the project and conserve history,” Elliott said. “It is all about being an American, and touching this aircraft is priceless.”
The job these detailers do with Air Force One and other planes in the 52-year-old museum’s collection is much appreciated, spokesman Ted Huetter said.
“That’s the great thing for us, that they volunteer their time,” Huetter said. “That was Renny Doyle’s idea, and they are honored to work on this plane and it has spread out to others. … We provide some room and board for them, and Doyle has become very good at providing added sponsorship.”
The Museum of Flight near King County International Airport just south of Seattle has 160 aircraft and spacecraft as varied as a 1962 Bowers Flybaby and a Lockheed M-21 Blackbird spy plane. As for Air Force One, it was the first jet airliner to carry presidents starting with Eisenhower, as well Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon when they were vice presidents. It is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Doyle operates Attention to Details Ltd. and began working on Air Force One 14 years ago with a few other detailers after learning it was suffering from years of outside exhibition. Museum officials asked his group to return every few years to detail the aircraft. Then in 2011 Doyle formed a larger team from those who had taken his Detail Mafia seminars, which focus on ways to maintain paint and metal on cars and aircraft.
Elliott, whose Firehouse Auto Spa is at 2375 St. Johns Bluff Road, details inexpensive compact cars to $100,000 Teslas, plus historic aircraft such as a 1959 U.S. Army OV-1B Mohawk at Craig Municipal Airfield. He’s been selected to work at the museum for the past three years. This is the first time he could make it.
He said the team in Seattle had to first find out what works best on Air Force One’s aluminum skin.
“And we are under a time constraint. We have 15 other aircraft to work on,” he said. “We have to find the way to get the best shine, then move on.”
As hard as the work is, there are benefits such as private tours of the aircraft and learning the history. Their results on Air Force One have been noticed, Huetter said.
“They have the paint and aluminum looking like new,” the museum spokesman said. “… In fact, one person who flew on it back in the day said it never looked that good when they were flying it.”
As for Elliott, he loves his career with the fire department, and the work he does detailing.
“I save paint and I save lives, and being a firefighter is the best job in the world,” he said. “I have wanted to do this since I was a kid. It is the best of both worlds.”
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549
You can read the original TU article here.