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Air Force One Pilot To President Lyndon B. Johnson Passes Away
July 15, 2015 - Brigadier General James Underwood "Jim" Cross, U. S. Air Force who was President Lyndon B. Johnson's pilot on Air Force One passed away at 90 in Gatesville, Texas on Saturday. Cross who was living in a nursing home died of natural causes.

Cross wrote a book, Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant, in which he shared his memories of years with President Johnson.

Cross became a pilot in 1944, after he trained in the U. S. Army. He began flying the C-46 heavy transport aircraft in World War II after being commissioned a second lieutenant. In 1946, he joined the Air Force Reserve and in 1948 he was recalled to active duty where he served in the Philippines, South Carolina, Newfoundland, and Delaware.
In 1958, he was enrolled into the U.S. Air Force’s Special Air Mission unit in Washington, D.C. The unit was responsible for piloting aircraft that flew the president and other dignitaries. In 1961, Cross was assigned to pilot Vice President Lyndon Johnson' aircraft, Air Force II.

On February 23, 1962, Cross flew Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who was chairman of the National Space Council, to Grand Turk Island, where Project Mercury astronaut Colonel John Glenn had splashed down after completing the first American orbit of Earth. On the flight back to Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Colonel Glenn joined Cross in the JetStar cockpit.

Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, President Johnson requested that Cross become qualified to fly a Boeing 707, the main presidential aircraft. Cross qualified to pilot the 707 in May 1964, and then served as Air Force One co-pilot for a year with Colonel James Swindal, who had been President Kennedy’s personal pilot. In 1965, Cross was promoted by President Johnson to chief Air Force One pilot as well as Armed Forces Aide in the White House. He worked both full-time jobs from 1965 to 1968, constantly changing from Air Force uniform to White House business suit as the occasion warranted.


Cross described President Johnson as the "ultimate back seat pilot." He depicted his job this way: "I bucked the inviolate military chain of command to fly where and when he wanted. Protocol, rules, and red tape couldn’t stop us. We did it his way, obstacles be damned. He wasn’t always the most pleasant personality to be around, but he was the best co-pilot in adventure anyone could ever have had."
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