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Lenoir Man Chosen to Restore Air Force One Presidential Jet, Honored with Mission Path

Keith Watson of Showroom Image Mobile Detail was selected out of hundreds of detailers nationwide to the elite Air Force One Detailing Team who has been restoring and now preserving the original Air Force One presidential jet on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. As a member of the 2016 team, Watson earned a bonus spot on the Boeing Centennial Detailing Team who helped celebrate Boeing’s 100th Anniversary with the biggest and most prestigious historic aircraft-detailing project on record this past spring. Their mission was to bring over 15 of Boeing’s most iconic aircraft back into mint condition.

In addition to the annual sprucing up of the famous Boeing 707-120, also known as Special Air Missions (SAM) 970, which served as a flying Oval Office for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon; they also cleaned three WWII military aircraft — the B-47 Stratojet, a B-17 Flying Fortress, and the B-29 (T-Square) Superfortress bomber. Also among the historical planes were several of Boeing’s “firsts”: the first 727, the first 737, and first 747; and a rare DC2, an F14 Tomcat, the A-6 Intruder, the Concorde Alpha Golf, and a 787 Dreamliner.

Marlene Houtchens, widow of WWII B-29 pilot Lowell Houtchens who was stationed on the island of Tinian with Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbetts when he dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, presented Watson and other team members with a commemorative mission patch.

“Marlene is an amazing lady who has supported the Museum’s care and maintenance of the B-29 for over 20 years,” says Watson. “She worked for Boeing for 29 years and graciously presented every team member with this patch, accompanied by a cartoon drawn in her own hand of the continued upkeep of the plane. I am deeply honored to be among those continuing her legacy as the caretaker of this amazing airplane.”

Original Jet Air Force One

The team, led by Master detailer, trainer, and mentor, Renny Doyle of Detailing Success in Big Bear Lake, CA, has spent nearly 15 years saving the plane’s original paint and aluminum “bright work”. Until the opening of the MoF’s new protective Airpark Hangar this year, many of Boeing’s planes, including the historic jet has lived out on the tarmac in Seattle’s torrential climate.

Doyle and his very meticulously chosen team of the finest high-end detailers in the country have entered a “preservation” stage with the iconic plane that includes an annual cleaning, polishing, and reapplication of a paint sealant. The plane is officially the responsibility of the Air Force One Detailing Team for the next five years.

WWII B-29 Superfortress Bomber

Also known as T-Square 54, this WWII workhorse is scarred with holes where fifty-caliber bullets raked her aluminum skin flying sorties over the Pacific and Japan before being abandoned for many years in an Arizona desert. When the Museum of Flight saved her and brought her to Seattle, the 2011 Air Force One Detailing Team polished her bright work for the first time since the 1940s.

Strapped into a cherry picker and riding a boom lift nearly 60 feet up into the air to clean the uppermost sections of the planes like the vertical stabilizer takes detailing to a completely new level!

Watson, who left his full time job several months ago to pursue his hobby detailing cars, attended detail training with Doyle earlier this year where he received his automotive detailing business certification. “I carefully select my team every year because there is no room for mistakes in detailing these multi-million dollar airplanes,” Doyle says. “I need people who will accept nothing short of perfection and Keith is one of those people.”

If North Carolina car and truck owners are wondering how detailing airplanes translates into detailing their vehicles, it is important to note that Watson is now a certified high-end paint correction specialist as well as detailer.

All AFO Team members like Watson own their own successful detailing businesses, and they pay their own expenses and donate their time and skill to the massive project.

“I am honored to have been chosen to be a part of such a significant project as preserving Air Force One, one of our country’s most cherished aviation treasures,” says Watson. “How many chances do you get to work on preserving a piece of our country’s history and here we are cleaning and restoring more than fifteen of Boeing’s most prestigious vintage aircraft. It is a privilege to be a part of this team and to share in this unique opportunity.”

For more information, contact Keith Watson at (828) 320-1757 or Kimberly Ballard at (256) 653-4003.