Oak Island man who worked on Air Force One remembers time with Queen Elizabeth II

"Whatever we thought a queen should be, she was that and more."
Howie Franklin
Howie Franklin worked on Air Force One under five presidents (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — During Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, America had 14 presidents and the Queen personally met with all of them except Lyndon Johnson.

Howie Franklin works as the manager of the Cape Fear Regional Jetport in Oak Island. Before landing in Brunswick County, he worked alongside some of those presidents as the chief flight attendant on Air Force One; meeting countless movie stars, musicians, and monarchs — including Queen Elizabeth.

“I was one of the people that got to work with her when she visited the United States and Ronald Reagan and we traveled around the country with her,” Franklin said. “She was the most gracious lady. Whatever I imagined a great queen would be, she was.”

Queen Ship

Howie Franklin shows a photo taken from Air Force One. “We were on Air Force One. We were flying over the Golden Gate and her ship was coming in to San Francisco to pick her up.” (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

Gracious, polite, and most of all, human. Franklin says the Queen treated everyone as equals and shared laughs with President Reagan, like when the two road horses in California.

“I was told the Queen’s horse had an extended amount of gas, I mean a large amount of gas. This gracious lady, finally said to the president, ‘Oh, pardon me, Mr. President.’ He turned and said, ‘it’s okay, I thought it was the horse,'” Franklin laughed.

While traveling, Franklin says the airplanes were equipped with snacks like candy, fruit baskets, and velamints. He says the Queen was particularly fond of the velamints and they weren’t available in England at the time.

“When I got back [home] after the trip, my neighbor was a British girl who married an American Air Force gentleman. Her brother was on the Queen’s flight in England. She told her brother about me and he contacted her and said the Queen would like some velamints,” Franklin said. “I went to Ronald Reagan and said, ‘the Queen would like some velamints, can I send some to her?’ He said yes, but please don’t tell the press!”

The stories he could tell are endless and all positive. Just as the Queen was gracious, Franklin was grateful to work with her.

“It was everybody. The whole crew felt that way, the secret service, our passengers, our staff members. Whatever we thought a queen should be, she was that and more as far as her mannerisms and her attitude,” Franklin said.

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