In the Air

Reluctance to Travel

"...it wouldn't be any two-page funeral."

“I figured it all out, and took them along for two reasons: First, I figured that with all those big Air Force people aboard, the pilot would be very careful when we got up in the sky. And second, I wanted to make sure that if the plane did come down unexpectedly, it wouldn’t be any two-page funeral.”

Editor's Note: Despite dedicating his career in Congress to the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Vinson rarely stepped foot on an airplane or a ship. One of the few times he traveled on a boat or even left the country was with his wife for their honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean. Vinson was as hesitant to travel by air as much as by sea. Typically, Vinson made his trip home to Georgia from D.C. on a train. However, at the insistence of several top Air Force officials, Vinson reluctantly flew home for Easter in April 1950. To the surprise of many, Vinson only agreed to such a travel arrangement on the condition his colleagues flew with him.

Shocked Vinson would require so many powerful and influential military officials to fly on the same plane, reporter Vance Packard asked Vinson why he would insist on such a risky plan. The excerpt above is taken from Vinson’s response explaining the rationale behind his terms for flying. As one of the most ardent advocates for the Air Force, Vinson himself would only fly on a plane after months of prodding and the assurance of making the front page if anything went awry.

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