Houston: President Donald Trump’s Air Force One, which has been redesignated as ‘Special Air Mission 41’ in a “special tribute” to George H W Bush, arrived here to transport the body of the former president to Washington for a state funeral at National Cathedral on Wednesday.
Bush, the 41st president of the US who led America during the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union and engineered the defeat of an audacious Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, died in Houston on Friday at the age of 94.
President Trump, who has announced a national day of mourning on Wednesday, said on Saturday that the Air Force One will bring the casket of Bush to Washington, describing it as “a special tribute that the former president deserves very much.”
By tradition, the aircraft is called Air Force One when the president is on board. President Trump is not travelling on the aircraft, so the plane has been redesignated as “Special Air Mission 41” to honour Bush.
“Air Force One has arrived in Houston for what will technically be called ‘Special Air Mission 41’ tomorrow and Wednesday. A beautiful day in Texas — ‘ceiling and visibility unlimited,’ Mr President,” Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Bush family, tweeted.
McGrath also shared a photo of Bush’s service dog Sully, lying in front of the president’s casket. The photo has been shared over 14,000 times as of Sunday night.
Bush — only the second president to see his son follow him to the Oval Office — will be honoured with four days of services and tributes in Washington and in Texas, where he will be buried on Thursday.
Bush’s son George — the 43rd president of the United States — and other loved ones are expected to travel on the presidential jet.
The former president will have two funerals — a state funeral at the National Cathedral and a local funeral at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
Officials also held what appeared to be a dry run for moving Bush’s casket to Washington.
His body will lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda after an arrival ceremony on Monday. The public is invited and can pay their respects from Monday evening until Wednesday morning.
Bush’s office said the state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral will be held on Wednesday morning.
The late president’s remains will then be returned to Houston on Wednesday. A public viewing will be held from Wednesday evening until Thursday morning followed by the funeral service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.
On Thursday, the president’s casket will be taken by train to College Station, Texas, accompanied by the Bush family members and close friends. A funeral procession will then travel on George Bush Drive toward the Bush Library complex.
According to sources in the White House, President Trump and First Lady Melania would attend the funeral service in Houston on Thursday. Former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter are also likely to attend the event.
The state funeral for the 41st president, whose death sparked tributes from around the world and across the political aisle, will be the first presidential funeral since Gerald Ford died in 2006.
Bush will be buried in Texas next to his wife, Barbara, and their daughter, Robin, who died in 1953.
President Bush was suffering from Parkinson’s disease that forced him to use a wheelchair in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals in recent months as his health declined.
The decorated war pilot and former CIA chief was elected president on November 8, 1988. He was sworn in on January 20, 1989, and served until January 20, 1993.