Haigh shares experiences, memories of service on presidential jet –
By Patricia Beech –
What’s it like to fly around the world with the President of the United States?
“It’s like the greatest honor imaginable,” says John Haigh, who served as Chief Steward on Air Force One for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Haigh was the featured speaker at the Adams County Republican Club’s annual Lincoln/Reagan Dinner in West Union, Friday evening, April 6.
Earlier in the day Haigh spoke with local students at Peebles High School about his experiences aboard the world’s most famous jetliner.
“As a young person growing up in a small coal mining community in western Pennsylvania, I dreamed of traveling and seeing the world,” he told the students gathered in the high school’s round room. “After graduating in 1960 I enlisted in the United States Air Force, not knowing where my travels would take me.”
In 1973 Haigh volunteered and was accepted into the 89th Military Airlift Wing, a special air mission’s organization at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, the home of Air Force One.
He experienced his first Air Force One backup trip to Europe and the Middle East with President Richard M. Nixon.
“After that trip I set a goal to become a permanent member of the Air Force One flight crew,” he says.
He achieved that goal on Sept. 1, 1979, when he was selected as a permanent member of the Air Force One flight crew.
Haigh served three presidents during his years on Air Force One including: President Jimmy Carter for 1 ½ years; President Ronald Reagan for eight years, which included his first 19 months as Chief Steward; and 3 ½ years as Chief Steward for President George H.W. Bush.
“The Presidents I was privileged to serve were ordinary folks like you and I, who did extraordinary things to be elected,” said Haigh. “Personally, I had the time of my life, fulfilling my dreams of world travels while having the privilege and pleasure to serve the Presidents aboard Air Force One.”
Haigh’s journeys on the presidential jet took him around the world and gave him the opportunity to meet world leaders like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, the Prime Minister of India, the Premier of China, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of Turkey, Vice Presidents Ford and Mondale, as well as many cabinet level officers, members of Congress, and high-ranking military offers.
“It was a dream job,” he says. “I loved every minute of it, and I’d still be doing it today if I could,”
Former Adams County Commissioner and member of the Adams County Republican Club, Stephen Caraway, was instrumental in bringing Haigh to Adams County. He says it was the former Chief Steward’s experiences, not his politics, that were the focus of his visit and his speaking engagements.
“It was great listening to John talk about his experiences and it wasn’t about politics,” said Caraway.