How strange it must be to take that final flight home as a brand new member of the ex-president's club. All sorts of emotions must be flowing: relief, melancholy, sadness, appreciation. Imagine being accustomed to the whole world hanging on your every word, traffic stopping for your motorcade, whole neighborhoods shutting down by your very presence, top secret briefings occurring every morning, and in the matter of a few moments at Noon on January 20 of your final term, all of it stopping. Juxtapose the feelings of that final flight home with the excitement and euphoria that a new president, his family, and staff must feel as they board Air Force One for their very first flight.
Former President George W. Bush flew back to Texas with dozens of family, friends, and former staff following President Barack Obama's inaugural address on the Boeing 747 normally known as Air Force One. However, when the president--the current president--is not on the plane, the plane's designation changes. For the trip to Midland where former President Bush spoke to supporters, the plane was designated Special Air Mission 28000 (28000 is the plane's tail number).
Mark McKinnon, a former campaign strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaigns, has an interesting first hand account on The Daily Beast of the trip back to the Lone Star State complete with pictures he snapped. Also at the Beast, is an article recounting the rides home taken by five other new ex-presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and Clinton.
Regardless of the president, I am always a little melancholy. Their departure signifies that an era for our country has ended and time marches on.