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Bush Foundation Wants Retiring Air Force One for Museum

FILE - Former President George H.W. Bush attends a ceremony to unveil a new garden named in his wife's honor, Sept 29, 2011, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The George and Barbara Bush Foundation has asked that an Air Force One plane set for retirement in 2025 be permanently exhibited at the late president's museum at Texas A&M.

If approved, the U.S. Air Force would permanently loan the Boeing VC-25A to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported. Bush died Nov. 30 at age 94, just months after the death of former first lady Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years.

"He had such a personal history with flying and that plane. He loved the plane," said Jim McGrath, vice president of the Bush Foundation and the couple's primary representative in their final years.

Air Force One was introduced during World War II to ensure the president's safe passage. The plane targeted for the presidential library was brought into service in 1990, during George H.W. Bush's presidency.

The 41st president was particularly happy about the plan to house the aircraft at his museum after he was shown renderings of the glass building that would encase it.

He "was very excited about it," said David Jones, the president of the foundation. "I just remember him beaming. He just thought it was a wonderful idea."

If approved and once declassified, the aircraft could be on display as soon as 2026. Jones said visitors to the museum and library's 90-acre (36 hectares) grounds would have the opportunity to board the plane.

Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, said in an email to the newspaper that the Bush Foundation's request was under review.

The Air Force is "committed to honoring and preserving the historical significance of the aircraft," she wrote.

The foundation is also working with transportation company Union Pacific to acquire the engine of the George Bush 4141 locomotive that carried his casket to the library in December, Jones said. The train's display could be completed as early as next year.

In January, the foundation started a $130 million fundraising drive called the "Campaign for Bold Horizons" to subsidize new exhibitions and features at the museum and library that opened in 1997.