A Time of Reflection for All – Who I Give Thanks and Why

Shelair's unique aviation blog series.


I love the holiday season and preparing for family time, reflection and getting a chance to fulfill some hobbies that sometimes get put to the backburner due to a busy work and family life schedule. But – we all must take the time to reflect, think about our gratitude, and who/what we are so thankful for!

November 22, 2023 – Blog Post #8:

Oh Thanksgiving! You are here! And yes, a great time to sit back, enjoy some much needed time off, quality moments with family and friends…but, more importantly for me, a time of REFLECTION. I do my best to ensure I stop and smell the roses in this life. As a society today, we too often lose track of time, space and where we are. We’re so ‘in the grind’ we don’t look up, see what’s right before us and just take a breath. Smile. Engage. Stop. Listen. I am suspect of the same. I get into it with my work, because I truly do love what I do, and I still have to remind myself – ‘STOP, SMELL THE ROSES!’ This life is short, we only have a matter of time before we leave God’s green Earth. We take for granted so much – so let’s do better, me included!

Lately, I have been reflecting so much on the work I do with WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. For the majority, our WWII veterans are leaving us so quickly. Many of them in their centennial milestone ages, some in wheelchairs, in assisted living, with family and handlers. Some are still out and about speaking, talking and educating all people about their service, their fellow brothers and sisters. It makes me sad we will lose all our WWII veterans in a matter of a few years. THIS WAS THE GREATEST GENERATION. I can live today, do my work, hobbies and spend time with family and friends because of these veterans. Many did not have a choice to go to war, many were poor boys from the Great Depression having faced one hardship from another, then went on to serve in WWII, some in the pacific, some in Europe, never to return home. These men and women who served in WWII for our great nation and allies are who I am blessed to call friends. I get to spend time with them and share my love and who I am absolutely, with all my heart, grateful for. Without them, I do not know what type of country we’d be. And while we still have many issues today, I can still live free. No current administration or politician provided that. Our WWII veterans sacrificed so we could live FREE. Their service, many who shed blood and sacrificed brought me here. They gave my mother the opportunity to meet my father and have us kids. It all comes full circle for me. 

In early November, I had the opportunity for our company to sponsor the very first Gala for the First Air Force One. Yes, that is right! There is a 1st Air Force One and we are working to get her restored back to her glory and back to the American People! She’s Columbine II, or as some call her, ‘Connie!’ Built in 1948, this historic aircraft was the presidential airplane from January 1953 to November 1954 and the principal backup until 1959. Gala guest speakers were Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of the late Dwight Eisenhower, and 100 years young WWII Veteran, David Mitchell, USN, Ret.

This presidential aircraft is so special. Not only was she the first steward of business aviation, she served a great president, one who focused on creating a future of hope, prosperity, and friendship. This aircraft flew President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a WWII veteran who knew what it meant to serve his country and support his comrades, brothers and sisters. I am honored to have met and talked with his granddaughter, Mary Jean Eisenhower, at the gala. She is a delight and she says it best, “We must pass the symbol of hope and happiness onto future generations.”

How did the Columbine II become the ‘FIRST’ Air Force One? In May 1954, Air Force flight 8610 checked in with Air Traffic Control as they flew over Richmond, Virginia. Eastern Airlines flight 8610 also checked in, causing confusion for both ATC members and flight crews. Officials learned that Air Force 8610 – Columbine II – was carrying President Eisenhower. At a meeting with several government agencies, Colonel Bill Draper, the pilot in command and Air Force Aide to the President, suggested a new call sign for the President’s plane: Air Force One. The call sign met with the approval of the others present, and Lockheed Constellation serial number 8610 thus became the very first Air Force One.

“This was the plane that carried my granddad to Korea when he fulfilled a campaign promise that he would go as president-elect to see what could be done about the war American troops were fighting there,” explains Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter to the 34th president. “My favorite picture of him is the one of him eating with the troops in Korea while he was president-elect. His ‘fleet’ of airplanes were all named Columbine because that is the state flower of Colorado. My grandmother, Mamie, was from Denver.”

“As soon as I saw the interior of the airplane again, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It’s not yet fully restored, but it looked so familiar. On my first visit, I fell head over heels in love with the airplane.”

The gala began with a special VIP champagne flight with Mary Jean and David Mitchell aboard one of the vintage aircraft I’ve helped crew, C-47 “Miss Virginia” of Dynamic Aviation. Both Mary Jean and David’s speeches were heartfelt and emotional, a true symbolism to the impact this aircraft has left on the American people, and globally. To again witness a 100 year old WWII veteran stand and speak so eloquently about how he turned the engines of this fine aircraft 70 years ago, just astounds me. I am so inspired, I am grateful. 

Check out the recap video from the FAFO’s Inaugural Gala here: First Air Force One Inaugural Gala – Columbine II

Now, it’s YOUR turn! That’s right! We want to hear from you. What are you most grateful for and why? Here is our chance to engage with our readers, and an opportunity for you to reflect and win a prize package! Get to it – we don’t have all day! 

Fill out this GoogleForm for a chance to win: CLICK HERE – Chance to WIN! Sheltair & From Sacrifice to Soaring Package Up for Grabs

Now, I set my sights on preparing a meal and breaking bread with my family tomorrow. I have 16 people to prepare for. And, I get to do this because of the Greatest Generation. 

Chance to Win Graphic



As I advance this themed monthly blog with Sheltair, you will become more intimately involved in special projects FAC has oversight. Some of these, just to give a teaser, involve WWII aircraft, a presidential aircraft restoration, global flight missions, female flight training scholarships, and more! FAC is now a team of 10 and growing. We love to have fun, we all enjoy the freedom of flight, engaging with industry, and supporting this sector with everything we have. We invite you to learn more about us here: FunDAvConsulting.com


Stay tuned for the December engagement blog post! Even more gift giving to come!