An ace pilot who flew four U.S. presidents aboard Marine One says he always knew when a commander-in-chief felt down and out.
"You can tell when they have a tough day," Col. Ray "Frenchy" L'Heureux told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"You remain apolitical in the job and you're providing a service. But it does not mean that you can't read it on their faces or you just know that they're just looking for some down time.''
L'Heureux — who jetted George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — is the author of "Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World's Most Amazing Helicopter,"
published by St. Martin's Press.
He said he knew early on that he was destined to soar through the skies, when, at the age of 12, his mother treated him to a flying lesson. Allowed to man the controls for part of the flight, L'Heureux was hooked.
"It's one of those things growing up, growing up just outside of Boston and we were in the flight path of Logan Airport," L'Heureux said.
"You'd just always look up and back then to become an airline pilot [you] still had that romantic notion of flying.... I don't think that holds true to today, but I knew that was the path I wanted to go down.''
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Initially, L'Heureux said, he only planned to do a single tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps and then train for a career as a commercial airline pilot.
"But something happened on the way to the bank and I fell in love with the organization," he said.
In 1991, he joined as a member of HMX1 — the elite Marine Helicopter Squadron One flying George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, their vice presidents and cabinet members.
In 2006, he became commanding officer of the squad, flying George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
L'Heureux retired in 2011 and now lives in Hawaii with fond memories of his time in the service.
And while he has many, one of his favorites is making the descent to the White House landing pad.
"Just … coming off the Potomac River, [there's the] Washington Monument right on your right, and you [make] a short final right into the backyard of the White House,'' L'Heureux said.
"That never gets old — even the last time I did it as a commander.''
L'Heureux said he enjoyed working for all four presidents, but was able to forge a friendship with George W. Bush. The two became mountain bike buddies.
"They were all personable,'' he said.
"Bush 41 and Bush 43 more so because they went to Camp David a lot and because we would stay at Camp David as guests of the president because they have to keep the pilots up there. You do things with them.''
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