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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Flying the president: How it feels to be a Marine One pilot

Exclusive interview with former presidential pilot Col. Steve Taylor
Photo by Chris Swann
Workers unwrap the protective covering on Marine One on Tursday, Feb. 27 at the George H.W Bush Presidential Library and Museum. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

Every pilot faces the challenge of navigating difficult airways and delivering cargo to safety, but few compare to the Marine One pilots responsible for transporting the president of the United States. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Steve Taylor was one of these select pilots for over 20 years.

Taylor became a pilot and eventually commander of the Marine Helicopter Squadron One, or HMX-1. Taylor served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

One of the helicopters Taylor regularly flew found its permanent home at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum’s new pavilion. It is joined by the 4141 Locomotive, which also transported President George H.W. Bush during his time in office.

Taylor said his interest in aviation was first sparked when he joined the Marine Corps in his 20s after an invitation from a friend to speak to a Marine selection officer.

“It was my senior year, and I was getting ready to go off to law school …” Taylor said. “I initially resisted, but I rode down with him and we talked but he ended up not going and I ended up signing into the Marine Corps … It was kind of more random and accidental, but it turned out in the scheme of life to be a very good thing for me.”

Taylor said he initially signed up for a six-year commitment in 1975, but ended up spending over 28 years flying with the Marines.

“I was a pilot in the squadron of 75 pilots from 1983 to 1988 when Ronald Reagan was president and [George] H.W. Bush was vice president,”  Taylor said. “As a young guy, I flew VP H.W. Bush a number of times on a couple of occasions. I then left the squadron and then came back in 2000 and commanded the squadron from 2001 to 2003, where I had several occasions that I flew President Bush in the helicopter that [the Bush Library] now has.”

Transporting the president was gratifying, Taylor said, but comes with responsibility.

“There are a hundred things that can go wrong every single day in that job, so the job is to be sure that things don’t go wrong and that the president gets where he needs to be on time,”  Taylor said.

Taylor said his most memorable flight as a Marine One pilot was after 9/11 occurred.

“On Thursday, the phone rang and they said the president wanted to go to New York and be there on Sept. 14 … On Friday morning, President Bush flew in and we picked him, Governor [George] Pataki and Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani up at McGuire and took them up to New York City. We took them for  a lap around the World Trade Center, which was obviously a very somber flight and landed at the Wall Street helipad … As you can just imagine, as we flew around looking into the site where the two buildings had collapsed, it was certainly a memorable event.”

The Marine One helicopter and the 4141 Locomotive at the new Bush Library pavilion will be available for students, staff and other members of the public to view and visit on June 13,  the day after what would have been President Bush’s 100th birthday.  There will be special events at the centennial commemoration on June 11-13, along with the opening of the new pavilion at the Bush Library.

Taylor said he hopes when students go to view the helicopter, they will think of the many important people who have been in that place and the memories that come with it.

“It makes me happy that these helicopters, particularly this one, are going to a good home,” Taylor said. “There is tremendous history … every president since Nixon has flown in those, and it is important that they be on display and that people get a good view, but also relate to each of the presidents … that flew in each one of those helicopters.”

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About the Contributor
Mia Putnam
Mia Putnam, News Writer
Mia Putnam is a junior (a-a-a-whoop!) public health major and masters epidemiology student. She has written for the Batt for over a year now and enjoys writing stories over politics, current student interests, and environmental issues.
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  • S

    SR-FMar 22, 2024 at 12:47 pm

    Congrats on a most privileged career in a unique profession!
    My brother-in-law was one of General De Gaulle’s pilots (Caravelle) and visiting one day, he invited us aboard… when totally silently, security appeared… to disappear just as silently once we were identified… a truly unforgettable experience!
    Your life’s occupation will bring you irreplaceable memories!

  • B

    Bruce HermanMar 22, 2024 at 11:28 am

    A VH-3A helicopter (Bureau Number 150613) which flew Presidents Nixon and Ford has been on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida since August 2011. In 1966, the Museum’s helicopter was assigned to HMX-1 at Quantico, Virginia, but not until January 1972 did it begin its service with the squadron’s Executive Flight Detachment. It flew in this capacity, carrying the call sign “Marine One” when the Commander-in-Chief was on board, until 1975.