Ashland auto detailer Mark Fowler and his son Travis are busy this week at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, detailing the Air Force One jet used by Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy from 1958 to 1962.
The sweeping blue-and-white Boeing 707 jet sits outside, getting punished by sun and rain, so it must be polished and given protective coatings every summer. This is the third year the pair has work on it.
“It’s an amazing experience working on this American icon, feeling what momentous decisions have been made on this plane that have affected the world,” says Mark Fowler. “It’s kind of overwhelming. Things got discussed in the air that are still affecting us today.”
The Fowlers are donating their labor as part of a 35-member team who will work over six days. Their next job is detailing the French-built Concorde SST. Earlier, they detailed a B-29 bomber at the museum.
If they charged for it, it would cost up to $50,000.
Fowler was selected by his trainer, Renny Doyle of Big Bear, Calif., to be on the team. Son Travis, 21, was also trained by Doyle. They will be assisted by Fowler’s wife Chelle and daughter Brooke, 18.
Working on a highly-restored 1936 Chevy pickup at his Pristine Detailing Services shop on Highway 99 North, Fowler says detailing takes a vehicle a giant step beyond what painters do, eliminating the ripply “orange peel” surface of normal cars and removing grime from all nooks and crannies.
Anyone can clean and detail a vehicle with standard soap and chemicals but the process taught by Doyle involves cleaning and polishing three or four times, using mixtures whose contents are secret. To wash a car, they use only a quart-sized mist-spray containing secret stuff, then wipe it off gently before polishing.
“Our goal is not to cover scratches, but to preserve the vehicle,” he says. “We want to preserve it, not just make it look good. When we work on a scratch, it never returns.”
It’s no different working on the now-antique Air Force One, says Travis Fowler —Sea and it’s a huge high to be making it shine.
“I don’t know how to put it in words. It’s almost overwhelming,” says Travis. “We’re so glad to do it and it’s great fun with the group of us detailers. It’s so historical when you think of what happened inside the plane.”
During their long labors, the detailers pick up much lore about Air Force One, including the fact that it only has that designation when the president is flying in it.
Since 1958, the president has had several Boeing jets. This 707 is not the plane that carried JFK from Dallas to Washington after his assassination. That’s called Special Air Mission 26000 and is now at the National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio.