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,
|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.