Caroline JFK Campaign Aircraft Collection

This collection details the technical life of President John F. Kennedy's campaign aircraft, the Caroline, which was the first private aircraft used exclusively for campaigning by an American presidential candidate. During the 1960 campaign, the aircraft flew 225,000 miles with a small crew, frequently carrying the candidate, family members, staff and reporters. Kennedy was known for walking the aisle, giving reporters a chance for one-on-one interviews.

In 1959 Joseph Kennedy purchased at Convair 240 from American Airlines, a move that would change American presidential campaigning forever. The senior Kennedy formed a separate corporation to manage the aircraft, Kenaire. The 1948 aircraft was retrofitted to meet physical and privacy needs of the candidate and his family.

After Kennedy won the election, the Secret Service deemed the Caroline not safe enough to be Air Force One, so the aircraft was used by the Kennedy family, including the First Lady. After the President’s assassination in 1963, the aircraft was used by the Kennedy family until it was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1967.

The collection includes correspondence and notes kept by the Caroline’s second chief pilot, Captain Robert Grissom. 

For more about this collection, see our Descriptive Finding Guide.


San Diego Air & Space Museum

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter

Get Social with SDASM