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“Ike’s Bird” Sponsor Group

Member & Pilot Information

Aero Commander L-26B  USAF 55-4638

Thanks for your interest in becoming a Sponsor Group Member

and Pilot of “Ike’s Bird”.  


This web page is an information sheet put together for prospective pilots and Sponsor Group members of “Ike’s Bird”.   We hope that you will consider joining us in this grand adventure.  


It is a real honor to fly these historic aircraft.   To know that the highest officials of our government rode in this plane makes it a unique and fun experience.   Who knows what kind of discussions, decisions, agreements and political calculations were made on the bench seat in the back?


Our group tries to have fun, all the while working hard to preserve this historic aircraft.

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It's time for you to step forward and get involved with the CAF flying a former Air Force One.  


The “Ike’s Bird” Sponsor Group is a Dallas based CAF unit that has taken on the responsibility of operating, maintaining, and displaying President Eisenhower’s 1955 AIR FORCE ONE.   This plane, nicknamed “Ike’s Bird”, is a real historical artifact, and is fun to operate.   Formed in 2018, a founding group raised the money to purchase this aircraft for the CAF.  Since then, it has been improved with new radios, and a multitude of mechanical improvements, repairs and upgrades.  


You can read more about the plane and its unique history here.


Operational Mode

We have recently moved the group from the startup phase into an operational mode.   As we look forward into the near future, we need more pilots to successfully and safely operate the plane.   

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Ike with his Air Force One pilot, Col. William Draper in 1955.

At present, we are looking for two Sponsor Pilots,

and two Reserve Pilots.   


Believe it or not, the majority of our Sponsor Group members are not pilots, and many do not live in the DFW area.   That’s different than most CAF sponsor groups.   These non-flying members love the plane and its mission, so they continue to support “Ike’s Bird”.  


Sponsor Group Organization

A little background…   In the CAF, when a sponsor group takes on an aircraft, they basically fulfil all the obligations of the owner.   That means they bear the responsibility of funding all operations, maintenance and any unforeseen repairs.   All revenue generated by the plane goes back to the sponsor group to offset those expenses.   In exchange, the CAF gives operational control of the aircraft to the group, as long as they operate within FAA and CAF guidelines and rules. 


The pilots love this arrangement because it affords them the opportunity to fly a unique, and historical airplane they otherwise could not afford. 

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Ike and British General Bernard Montgomery flew aboard

"Ike's Bird" to the President's farm in Gettysburg, PA.  

The CAF requires each pilot to sponsor the plane that they fly. 


When we announce a scheduled event, the pilots bid on the event and get scheduled.   At present, we have more events than we have pilots available. 


As a result of this need, our plan is to add two more members to the Sponsor Group who are pilots.   But just to be sure we have covered our bases, we also plan to add two Reserve Pilots.    A Reserve Pilot is someone who is not a full Sponsor Group member.  But they have been approved by the Sponsors to fly the plane.   When we have an event, and we are not able to schedule a regular member, then we will bring in the Reserve Pilot.   That way we never miss an event or opportunity on account of a pilot shortage. 


Financial Arrangements

It takes $50,000 a year to operate “Ike’s Bird”.   We cover that expense with about $35,000 in revenues from donations, ride sales and airshow fees.   The balance must come from donations made by our members.   At present we have 14 active members who are funding the plane with annual donations of $1,000.  


There is a difference is the financial commitment requirements between a Sponsor Group Member and a Reserve Pilot.   The chart below shows the amounts and differences.   


For select pilots, we have some grant funds available to help fund the Initial Donation.   This may help a person to afford to join.   Let us know if you would like to apply for a grant. 

Sponsor Group Member

Reserve Pilot

Initial Donation                     $5,000                  -0-
Annual Assessment             $1,000                $500
Hourly Flight Time                $  205                 $205


  1. The initial Donation (Sponsorship fee) is a one-time donation paid to the CAF.  The amount is fully tax deductible as a gift to a charitable organization.   These funds are held in a separate account and are available for the Sponsor Group to use to fund capital improvements on the airplane, or to pay certain expenses.   One hundred percent of the Initial Donation is deposited to the airplane fund… no funds are pulled out for other CAF use.  

  2. The Initial Donation may be paid lump sum or in monthly/quarterly payments over 24 months.  

  3. Some sponsorship grants are available to help offset the Initial Donation.

  4. The Annual Assessment is the amount needed to cover all costs not paid by revenues generated.   This amount is divided by the number of Sponsor Group members.   Assessment payments are tax deductible. 

  5. At present the Annual Assessment is $1,000 per year, per member.  The Annual Assessment is waived for the first year.  The Annual Assessment may be paid in monthly or quarterly installments. 

  6. Flight time is not charged for pilots involved in revenue generating flights.  This means that if a pilot is flying to an airshow where fuel is available, or flying a ride flight, then there is no charge for the flight time.  The majority of the flight hours are made in revenue flight mode. 

  7. Pilots pay the hourly flight time rate for the flight time of their own training and currency flights. 

  8. The hourly flight time charge is made up of the following items:

    • Fuel                       $168 per hour (at $6.00 per gallon)

    • Oil                         $   15 per hour (at $7.75 per quart)

    • Reserves              $    50 per hour

    • Total                     $   233 per hour

  9. CAF regs require pilots to have 10 hours in type before flying paid passenger rides.

  10. Sponsor Group members have priority in flying, and a full vote in the administration of the Sponsor Group.  Reserve Pilots fly when a Sponsor Pilot is not available. 


Pilot Selection

We have a simple, but effective method of selecting Pilots and Sponsor Group Members.   


Non-flying members are valuable for their interest in volunteering and being part of the ongoing mission of the CAF and this airplane.   They get to choose the level of financial commitment that is comfortable for them and their family. 


The selection of pilots is a little more involved.   The philosophy we use is to select a pilot is to find a person that has these qualities:

  • Able

  • Attitude

  • Available


To be Able means that they have the required ability to safely fly the aircraft as an Aircraft Commander.  They must have a commercial, multi-engine rating and be proficient in flying light/medium twin piston aircraft.   If a pilot is lacking in recent piston twin time, we have asked them to go fly a Baron or Cessna 310 for currency, and practice engine out procedures.   To fly paid passenger rides, they must also have a second class medical and 10 hours in type. 


Attitude is an important quality in this group and in everyday life.  We look for a person with a positive attitude, who can get along with others.  You must like to interact with others and be patient and friendly on the ramp when the public approaches and wants to talk about the plane.    


To be Available is an important quality.   A lot of pilots have the first two requirements, but their schedule is so full, they are rarely available.   We are seeking pilots who can commit enough time to keep themselves current and safe, as well as participate in two to four events per year.  


A meeting and interview will be conducted on an informal basis to get to know you and assess these qualities.   Once these criteria are successfully met, we will schedule you to fly with one of our flight instructors.   After an hour or two of flying, you will be scheduled to fly with our Chief Pilot, Bill Goeken.  He will be the final arbiter of your flying skills in this particular aircraft.  


If all these criteria are met, then we inform you of your successful completion and acceptance into the Sponsor Group.   Your only financial commitment prior to this is your flight time at the hourly rate. Once you have been accepted, then you are obligated to pay the Initial Donation.   The Donation may be paid out in a lump sum, or in monthly/quarterly payments over 24 months. 


Of course, you may choose not to join, and you may resign the Membership at any time. 

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Kerry Liefeld and his wife aboard "Ike's Bird".   Kerry spent a number of years as the Maintenance Officer in charge of Bob Hoover's airshow Aero Commanders.  He called

"Ike's Bird" the best vintage Commander he had ever seen.  

Barnstormer Saturday Historic Aircraft Fly-Ins

We are producing the Barnstormer Saturday events in partnership with the DFW Wing, T-34 Sponsor Group, Coyote Squadron and Lone Star Wing.   You can read more here.

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For More Information

We have given you a lot of information in this paper.  Please review and let us know if you have any questions.   Hopefully, you will choose to join in our efforts and feel the satisfaction of flying a historic aircraft, and the fun of sharing it with others. 


Thank you…


Gerald Oliver

Aircraft Director



Put yourself into the cockpit flying "Ike's Bird".   

Reach out to us for any questions and sign up today.   

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