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Air Force Two flight attendant shares stories of serving VIPs

Air Force Two flight attendant shares stories of serving VIPs

Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:01 pm
By: AP

  By HANK DUDDING

The Commercial Appeal

MEMPHIS (AP) — Tangella Brown has logged thousands of hours as a flight attendant, but she’s never had to roll a cart loaded with tiny bags of peanuts.

The food is much better on Air Force Two.

Brown, 38, a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, works as a crew member aboard the jets designated for travel by the vice president.

And when the vice president isn’t flying, other important officials are.

She serves leaders such as former President George H.W. Bush — “Daddy Bush” to those on the plane — who once asked her if his slippers looked too girly.

She spilled a drink on former President Bill Clinton on the same trip, an overseas flight for tsunami relief.

He shrugged it off.

But Clinton lit up when he found out Brown, whose family moved to Memphis about 20 years ago, grew up in Forrest City, Ark.

“Let me tell you about the time I saved Sanyo,” he told her, referring to the city’s electronics plant, and he was still telling her about it 30 minutes later.

Brown flies roughly 800 hours a year, which is about the same as being on a plane for 33 straight days.

She works aboard two jets — one a modified Boeing 737, the other a modified 757 — that are designated as Air Force Two when the vice president is aboard.

More often, she works for other officials — passengers are called DVs, for distinguished visitors — when they fly on government business.

She went after the job nine years ago, even though she wasn’t crazy about all that flying, because she wanted to see the world.

“If you can name it, I’ve been there,” Brown said.

And she’s not kidding.

She’s been to New Delhi, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Helsinki, Instanbul, Cairo (“Ooh, I love Cairo”), Mumbai and Moscow, and that’s just for starters.

Flight attendants play many roles on the trips, from toting bags to cooking, but the job’s primary requirement is making officials as comfortable as possible.

“And we do feed them a lot,” she said.

Sometimes it’s spaghetti and meatballs, and sometimes it’s a lot fancier, but it’s always from scratch.

Gen. David Petraeus, chairman of the U.S. Central Command, sent his compliments to Brown on the stuffed lobster tails she whipped up on a recent flight.

She hasn’t flown with Vice President Joseph Biden — “He hasn’t been out a whole lot yet” — but she flew with former Vice President Dick Cheney for eight years and helped deliver the Cheneys back to Wyoming after the inauguration.

“It was like taking family home,” she said.

Brown’s big smile and easy demeanor suggest top-shelf people skills, but her firm handshake indicates she’s all business when she needs to be.

“We’re the servants. We’re there to take care of you. We’re not your friend,” she said.

In other words, everything about the experience is designed to be practically presidential.

Even when she’s flying No. 2.

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

Published in The Messenger 4.7.09