DALLAS — When Air Force One lands at Dallas Love Field, pride and patriotism take flight.
Fifty years ago, history had arrived when John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, landed at the airport. Hundreds of people waited for hours to see them, but the trip that started with so much celebration ended with a stunned nation and a new president.
On the airport's east ramp, two hours after JFK's assassination, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the nation's 36th president in the cabin of Air Force One.
It took a lot of digging to get to the spot where history was made.
Airport officials, Corgan Associates (the firm behind the airport’s renovations), and The Sixth Floor Museum participated in the research. They used old photographs of the president's Boeing 707, photos of the swearing in, and the plane's floor plan to pinpoint the location.
The old photos were donated to The Sixth Floor Museum by Noel Cook, a former FAA employee. His office was on the fourth floor of the main terminal building. He took some of the photographs from the roof outside an old tower at the airport. He donated the photos to the museum. Corgan lined up the objects in the foreground of the pictures and buildings in the background. Some those landmarks are still standing today.
"If you take a few more steps and stop right here, this is probably as close as we can get with the computations we made to identifying the exact spot where LBJ was sworn into office," said Terry Mitchell, Love Field's assistant director of aviation operations. "Knowing the location where the photograph was taken, we could get some fairly accurate measurements as to where the aircraft was sitting at the time. Not many people in the public are going to have access to this spot, so even from that standpoint, it’s kind of special."
Travelers will be able to get a glimpse of that historic place from a window on the second floor of the airport's new terminal, in an area known as "Love Landing."
An exhibit to highlight the swearing-in location is in the works. It's expected to include the airport's file on Kennedy's visit, including a calendar page from the airport director’s secretary.
"She made the notes that the president went to Parkland, that his condition was critical," Mitchell said. "Just looking at it, you just feel history unfolding when you can read something that's real and tangible."
The hope is to have the exhibit ready by late next year.