Bus Stop Classics: Buses of the US Air Force – “All Aboard the Blue Goose”

During my military tours, I had the opportunity to drive a number of buses – not full-time, but typically incidental to my main duties.  And being a car/truck/bus guy, I routinely violated the cardinal rule of GI-life; “Never volunteer for anything”….when they needed a bus driver, I would usually raise my hand.  So let’s step aboard the “Blue Goose” and look at a few of the buses in the USAF fleet before, during, and after my time.

Before.  Buses have a long history in the USAF.  While the Army and Marines typically used tactical vehicles to move their troops, the Air Force, being mostly garrison-based, used buses.  Here’s a 1940’s Chevy – perhaps just before the Air Force was designated a separate service in 1947.  The “ATC” on the bumper likely stands for Air Transport Command, the forerunner of today’s Air Mobility Command.

Moving to the 1950’s, this is a Fageol Super Freighter bus.  These were essentially large trailers plopped on to a truck chassis – mostly International Harvester (IHI).

A mid-60’s Metro-Superior bus using an IHI chassis.  A lot of our Vietnam Vets will recognize this model.

During.  I drove buses in the early portion of my career – from the late-70’s to the mid-80’s.  Almost all were IH Loadstars, 29 and 44 pax models.  The 29 pax were old 1972/3’s, with a good eight years of hard, GI level abuse.  The 392 cu in gas V8 roared, but imparted little forward motion.  The four speed manual transmission was the proverbial “wand in a bowl of Jell-O”.  The synchros were all gone so it was double-clutching, rev-matching, and much crunching.  I hated driving these.  The 44 pax models were only a year old, and had a IH DV 462 diesel V8 and an Allison automatic.  Much nicer…

In the late-80’s, I was asked to drive a 1989 Blue Bird All American 28 pax model to a function downtown when the Transportation unit ran out of drivers.  Even though it was new, I didn’t care for it.  You could tell it was a bus body on top of a medium duty truck chassis – hard riding and lots of rattles.  The front door – a two section affair, with one section opening inward and one outward, used rubber weather-stripping that had large gaps and didn’t seal – I remember going down the expressway and putting up with a lot of road noise and a very loud whistle.  Lowest common bidder…

After.  Irrespective of my opinion, Blue Bird seems to be the bus of choice for today’s USAF fleet – this is a RE All American.

Though I do see a few of these Thomas Saf-T-Liners.

I haven’t driven a bus in over twenty-five years, and often wish I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one again…I’d even take a spin in an IH Loadstar with bad synchros…