Monroe County native Johnny Payne sat in the cockpit of the meticulously shined Boeing 757, staring at the clock. Even though the flight was supposed to be scheduled down to the minute, his passenger was late, but Johnny was getting used to that. During the first month of his job as co-pilot of Air Force Two, his main passenger, Vice President Al Gore, was almost always late, sometimes by over an hour. Finally, a helicopter appeared in the distance—Marine Two—carrying the Vice President. Upon landing, he was escorted to the stairway leading up to the plane. As soon as he stepped on the stairs, Johnny started the engine on the opposite side of the plane, and the moment Gore was on board, Johnny activated the other engine, and the plane began to move.
Johnny had flown several politicians besides Gore, and while he hadn’t had much chance to meet them, he’d been close enough to form impressions. Senator Joe Biden was outgoing, laughing and joking with the crew. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was friendly, stopping by the cockpit to thank him after flights. Al Gore, however, came across as wooden, never personable unless there was a camera in his face.
Gore was in the middle of his campaign for President, and Johnny suspected the stress was getting to him. There was a state room near the cockpit where Gore and his wife would often stay during flights, and Johnny had sometimes heard them arguing, tempers running high. Johnny thought about his own wife, Peggy, and tried to imagine how much strain they’d feel if they had to endure the Gores’ grueling schedule.
During the flight, the crew enjoyed a delicious meal of barbeque ribs catered by a popular local restaurant and a Dove Bar for dessert. It wasn’t until after the plane landed that Johnny learned from the rest of the crew that these ice cream bars had caused a stir in the back. Al Gore was on the Atkins diet at the time, so the crew hadn’t ordered a Dove Bar for him. And when he saw everyone else eating one but not him, the Vice President of the United States left his plate of ribs and went to the back galley to yell at the head flight attendant in front of the whole crew until he got a Dove Bar.
Johnny had to laugh when he heard the story—one of the most powerful men in the world throwing a hissy fit over an ice cream bar. Welcome aboard Air Force Two. This was going to be an interesting job.