Whitehall man spruces up first Air Force One jet
Thursday, August 04, 2011
By Sean Ruppert
Doug Parfitt conducts detailing work on Air Force One in Seattle.Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy may have made it famous, but one local man has made it shine.
Doug Parfitt of Whitehall was part of a weeklong restoration project on the first modern Air Force One. The Boeing 707, now displayed in Seattle at the Museum of Flight, was built during the Eisenhower administration and put into service in 1959. It replaced a Lockheed Super Constellation propeller plane as the president's primary mode of air travel, making it the nation's first presidential jet.
Mr. Parfitt, 49, is the owner and operator of Eye for Detail, a mobile auto detailing service. He shut down his business for an entire week to join other skilled detailers from around the country in Seattle July 24 through Sunday to do volunteer work on the project, which also includes the restoration of a World War II era B-29 bomber.
"From a business standpoint, it crosses your mind, 'Can I afford to shut down for an entire week?'" Mr. Parfitt said. "But for pride's sake, and history's sake, it was something I wanted to do."
Mr. Parfitt said he was taken by the former Air Force One as soon as he laid eyes on it.
"The first time you walk in you are awe struck, to know the history of that plane," he said.
The jet served as the primary transport for presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy from 1959 through 1962, when it was replaced by a newer Boeing VC-137C. However, the plane remained in the presidential fleet until 1996, ferrying vice-presidents and foreign leaders around the globe.
Mr. Parfitt, whose mobile business details cars at his clients' homes, said working on such a massive machine had been quite an experience.
"There are people working on all parts of the plane. Some working on the ground, others hanging off a boom and polishing the roof," he said.
He said that while it was easy to be taken by the history of the plane, once the work began, he approached it just like any other project.
"At first you are kind of awestruck, but ... then you get focused on making that metal and aluminum look its best," Mr. Parfitt said.
Mr. Parfitt was selected for the project by Renny Doyle, who is leading the effort. Mr. Doyle, of Big Bear Lake, Calif., runs his own detailing business and trained Parfitt before he started his South Hills buisiness.
"There is a lot of [fame] in being selected for a project this important," Mr. Doyle said. "I had people try [to] buy their way onto the project. But in the end, I had to pick people [who] I know are morally and ethically correct and can do this level of work."
Mr. Doyle has worked on the former Air Force One on three prior projects. He said his team had been paid for the work in the past but that funding cuts had hampered the Seattle Museum's ability to afford this type of upkeep. Despite this, Mr. Doyle decided to move forward with a volunteer crew.
"The pride in being a part of a project like this is unbelievable. Once these planes get under your skin, you can't get them out," Mr. Doyle said.
"I was honored that he thought my skills were high enough to work on a project like this," Mr. Parfitt said.
He added that the challenging nature of the assignment had made him appreciate his day-to-day work.
"Once you've been suspended 35 feet in the air to polish the top of an airplane, working on the hood of a car doesn't seem so tough," he said.
Sean Ruppert, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First published on August 4, 2011 at 5:12 am
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