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On the road with Air Force One
Gillsville man hauls plane replica
Part of the interior of the replica of Air Force One. - photo by Tom Reed
GILLSVILLE There is no airport in Gillsville, but Air Force One landed here earlier this week. It’s parked in Donald Snare’s driveway.

OK, it’s not the real presidential aircraft, but it is a lifelike replica of the cockpit and presidential cabin of the plane used by Presidents Kennedy through the first Bush.

Snare is a trucker and has hauled some interesting loads in his time, but nothing to compare with a real Boeing 727 fuselage painted in the exact scheme of the real Air Force One.

"I’ve had people come flying by me about 15 or 20 miles an hour faster than me and then slam on the brakes to slow down and look," Snare said. From behind, the oversized load just looks like a big cylinder. The enormous plane is hard to read if you’re casually driving down the highway. He said he gets the most looks from traffic in the opposite lanes.

"I’ve had people get ahead of me and then try to turn around and get a photograph," he said. That includes one incident when a driver pulled into Snare’s lane and almost sent Air Force One into the ditch.

Snare is a sure-fire attention getter when he pulls into a truck stop. He has become somewhat of an expert about his unique cargo.

The plane that is parked at his Gillsville home for the next week is the one that was on display at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

He also hauled another copy to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The Denver stop was part of a display called "The Presidential Experience" that included a collection of presidential memorabilia. A presidential limousine and a replica of the desk from the Oval Office was shown.

The plane he’s hauling now actually was still being flown in April. Its history includes charter use for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004. It also has been used as the charter plane for teams in the National Basketball Association.

But now, it has been configured to look like the presidential plane. It includes a space with a painted board that represents the electronic communication system of the plane. Nearby is the president’s suite with high-back leather seats and an assortment of telephones, none of which actually work. In the cockpit, a recording offers simulated audio of a control tower communicating with Air Force One.

When on display, Snare’s trailer is removed and the fuselage rests on huge metal support stands. He carries two sets of stairs for front and rear access. The display also includes a number of static displays that tell the history of the famous plane.

Snare returned home Sunday after being on the road for nearly a month with the two planes. While he’s getting paid for hauling it around, it is clearly a job he enjoys. He found out about the job on an online board that lists commercial loads. He hauled the other replica several times last year. He will take this one to Philadelphia next week.