Q. I am sending you a picture of what looks to be one of those VIP government planes that I saw last week and the week before in hangar 1 at Scott Air Force Base. It’s white on top and blue on the bottom with “United States of America” printed across the top of the body. The tail number is 50932. Who is it for and why is it here?
— Susan Clukey, of Fairview Heights
A. From the looks of your picture — a large plane with some Air Force One-like markings tucked away in a hangar behind a barred fence — it certainly appears that President Obama or some other grand poobah may have quietly slipped in for a brief visit recently.
It would make a great story, but, unfortunately, I have to bring your imagination in for a fast, hard landing. Although you’ve never noticed it before, the plane you saw is one of four C-40Cs that have been helping the Air Force Reserve Command’s 932nd Airlift Wing carry out its mission at Scott for nearly a decade. Ironically, you managed to find the one with the “932” in its tail number that’s identical to the number of the unit.
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The first one flew into the base on Feb. 26, 2007, all brand-spanking-new from Boeing as an upgrade for the C-9C aircraft the wing was using at the time. Two others followed that same year, and a fourth was added on Nov. 18, 2011. The 932nd, the only Air Force Reserve unit in the state with a flying mission, uses the plane to transport distinguished visitors (DVs), primarily the first lady and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress and the Cabinet. The very first C-40C went to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in October 2002 before Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii welcomed one two months later.
“The mission of the C-40 is important to the Air Force and the nation,” Air Force Reserve Commander Lt. Gen. John Bradley said at the time. “Its ability to fly missions of 10 or more hours brings a new capability to flying long-distance missions.”
At a tad longer than 110 feet long, the body of the $70 million C-40C is identical to the Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. It boasts a DV compartment with sleeping accommodations, two galleys and business-class seating with worktables. As an added bonus, its configuration can be changed to accommodate anywhere from 42 to 111 passengers. With its engines delivering about twice the thrust of the old C-9C engines, it has a potential range of more than 5,500 miles, roughly twice that of the plane it replaced. The C-40s delivered to Scott also have upgraded avionics that have been rewired to handle classified communications and auxiliary fuel tanks that allow nonstop flights to Hickam and Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The acquisition of the C-40 has allowed reserve unit and active duty personnel at Scott to resume working together to maintain and fly the aircraft. Those hoping to care for the VIP passengers must qualify for a top-secret security clearance, be ready to fly a 10-day trip every three months and be within the Air Force fit-to-fight standards. For an Air Force photo album of the stately birds (including the 50932), go to the official Website of the the 932nd Airlift Wing at www.932aw.afrc.af.mil/photos/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=4398&page=1
Q. Someone forwarded me an e-mail suggesting that Pope Francis said, in part, it is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person, the traditional notion of God is outdated, it is not necessary to go to church and give money, etc. Is this possibly true?
— F.F., of Belleville
A. Pope Francis may be popular for his inclusiveness, but he hasn’t gone off the deep end yet. Although the e-mail you saw has been floating around since last December, there is no proof he ever said those particular words, according to snopes.com.
Experts guess it arose from remarks the pope made during a May 2013 homily when he said, in part, “We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”
Some might interpret this to mean that anyone who does good can achieve salvation, but Vatican spokesman Thomas Rosica quickly put the kibosh on this idea when he issued this official clarification:
“This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church, which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time ... those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ ... but sincerely seek good and ... try to do his will ... can attain eternal salvation.”
If you suffer from arachibutyrophobia, what are you afraid of?
Answer to Sunday’s trivia: In 1932, jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong was requested to play a command performance at Buckingham Palace for the royal family. According to British protocol, such performers are never supposed to address the royals individually by name, but ol’ Satchmo apparently could not contain himself. Just before he launched into a rendition of the lively “You Rascal You,” Armstrong got caught up in the moment and shouted out to King George V, “This one’s for you, Rex!” Nobody seemed to mind — after all, Rex is Latin for “king.” Bonus fact: Armstrong, who would have turned 114 on Aug. 4, reportedly always wore a star of David to honor the Jewish Karnofsky family who hired him as a youngster to do odd jobs — and bought him his first horn. “I was only 7 years old but I could easily see the ungodly treatment that the white folks were handing the poor Jewish family whom I worked for,” he once said of his childhood in New Orleans.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.