Air Force One steward speaks at airport

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014

Clayton Stairs/South Strand News Howie Franklin, former chief steward for Air Force One, speaks about working with five U.S. presidents during a celebration of Aviation Week at the Georgetown County Airport on Aug. 22.

About 30 visitors to the Georgetown County Airport on Aug. 22, learned about former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton as they celebrated Aviation Week.

Howie Franklin, former chief steward for Air Force One and the only flight attendant to ever work for five U.S. presidents consecutively, was the guest speaker for the event.

The event was a celebration of the history of aviation and all the economic benefits that come with it and included a County Council proclamation in honor of Aviation Week.

Franklin commended Georgetown County leaders and airport personnel for doing a good job expanding and improving facilities at the county airport.

“You’ve got a wonderful resource here and what you’ve done is fantastic,” Franklin said.

“It will pay off. Money doesn’t drive in, it flies in.”

Georgetown County has two airports, the one in Georgetown and one in Andrews.

According to a press release, those facilities have a direct economic impact of more than $1 million for the county.

The indirect economic impact is more than $900,000, and factoring in the “trickle-down effect” increases the impact to up to $3.5 million, according to officials from the state Aeronautics Commission.

“Aviation is a self-sustaining industry,” said retired Major Gen. Gerald Harmon, the county’s representative on the S.C. Aeronautics Commission. “It’s an economic engine not only for our airport but our entire state.”

Statewide, the dollars linked to aviation are in the billions, he added.

Georgetown County’s two airports employ about 50 people, house more than 40 aircraft and see well over 100 takeoffs and landings every day.

The county’s airports are also active in the support of businesses, as well as the growing tourism industry.

Franklin spent 24 years stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, the last 18 of which he worked aboard Air Force One, serving as flight steward.

He served from 1976, during the Ford administration, through 1994, halfway through Bill Clinton’s administration.

Franklin is now director at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport at Howie Franklin Field.

He is past president and a current member of the executive board of directors of the N.C. Airports Association. When he came aboard Air Force One in April 1976, Franklin said he was told he would not be guaranteed the position when a new administration took over.

However, he made the transition through Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton. He retired in 1994 and moved to Brunswick County, N.C., with his family.

Franklin also flew extensively with Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, on his shuttle diplomacy missions during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He spent 29 years in the Air Force, reaching the rank of chief master sergeant.

Franklin said during the Aug. 22 event that he enjoyed working for the five presidents and spoke about each one.

Ford, he said, taught him to make his enemies into friends.

“He didn’t have the ego of an elected president because he was appointed,” Franklin commented.

Carter was a southern gentleman, he said.

Reagan was very sincere even behind closed doors.

“I worked for him for eight years and I tried but I never caught him being a phony,” Franklin said.

“I just couldn’t do it. He was the same gentleman in person and he energized everyone around him.”

He said Reagan had a great sense of humor and he loved California.

Of Bush, Franklin stated that he was the only U.S. president who ran his own company in the black and made a profit.

“He was a very good businessman, but maybe not a great politician since he was not reelected,” he said.

Franklin added that Barbara Bush was a first lady who kept everyone on their toes.

He said Clinton was the only president he worked with who listened to rock music.

“All of the other presidents I worked with listened to country music,” Franklin said.

He said although Clinton liked to stay up late, he was the only president he worked with who did not drink alcohol since he is allergic to it.

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