LBJ’s plane belongs in Austin

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Austin people usually don’t need help from Dallas to get things done. They’re smart enough and hip enough — and weird enough — to go it alone, usually.

But now Austin’s tangling with a whole other state for a prize whose rightful home is Texas. Dallas has a stake in this one, too, so here goes:

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Air Force One belongs at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin. Period.

Now sitting in a collection of aircraft at Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, LBJ’s plane (and we’ll call it just that) deserves a homecoming.

It was aboard that Boeing 707 that LBJ took the oath of office at Dallas’ Love Field in 1963 after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. LBJ cut deals on that plane. He circled the world on that plane. It carried him home to Texas at the end of his presidency.

Sure, a few other presidents used it before it was retired in the 1990s, but no one could fill a room like LBJ. The Texas connection is strong.

LBJ library people have raised a pile of money to build a pavilion for the jet, an idea patterned after the popular Air Force One exhibit at the Ronald Reagan library in California.

But the Ohioans aren’t seeing it and refuse to part with this one piece of their collection.

For one, they say not enough people would visit the plane in Texas. Are they kidding? They’ve probably never seen traffic on Interstate 35 in Austin. A roadside attraction there would be a sure thing, since no one could get anywhere else anyway.

Feeling the heat, the Ohioans are now circling the wagons and getting their congressional delegation involved, but that could lead to a bad place for them. If need be, we’ll unleash Sen. Ted Cruz and ask him to talk the Ohioans into oblivion.

This is not Texas’ first interstate fight over historical aircraft, and the last one didn’t go well for us.

When NASA retired the space shuttle fleet three years ago, the agency messed with Texas. One shuttle went to Florida, one to the Smithsonian and one to Los Angeles. New York got a prototype. Houston — home of the Johnson Space Center — got a consolation prize, a replica.

Now the Johnson name and legacy is in play again. No consolation prize will work this time. A piece of history is sitting in Ohio and needs to come back home.

If the Air Force plays ball on this one, Texas might want to get reasonable and agree not to go clamoring for Air Force Ones for our two Bush presidential libraries. That might look greedy. And there probably isn’t enough parking space for George W.’s old plane at Southern Methodist University, anyway.

— The Dallas Morning News


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