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Episode 23: Flying with Presidents with Wanda Joell

podcast Aug 31, 2021


In this episode, Sharon is joined by Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell, the first African-American woman to serve as a flight attendant on Air Force One. Wanda gives an insider’s look into the most exclusive plane in the world - describing what the inside of Air Force One looks like and sharing stories about the various U.S presidents she served.  Throughout her 24 years of service, Wanda welcomed four presidents - George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama - aboard Air Force One. Wanda explains her unique responsibilities as a flight attendant, such as cooking the presidents’ favorite meals from scratch, and describes what it was like to be in close quarters with presidents during important moments in history.  

Link to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • How Wanda’s dream of being a flight attendant began
  • How someone is chosen to be a flight attendant on Air Force One 
  • What the inside of Air Force One looks like 
  • How food was prepared and served on Air Force One 
  • What is was like to serve four presidential administrations aboard Air Force One 
  • Interactions Wanda had with U.S presidents 
  • How each administration’s preferences varied on Air Force One 
  • Stories from Air Force One the public has never heard  


3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Wanda Joell knew she wanted to be a flight attendant from the age of six. When she was older, she enlisted in the U.S Air Force, moved up in the ranks and was recognized for her hard work. After an extensive background check, she was selected as the first African American flight attendant to serve on Air Force One. Throughout her career, she served five presidential administrations: Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Later on, Wanda was also selected to be the Superintendent of First Lady Operations. 
  • Wanda describes what the inside of Air Force One looks like. Within the plane, there are multiple rooms, compartments and kitchens. There is also a presidential suite, conference room and medical annex. The plane has various compartments that hold the presidential senior staff, presidential guests, plane staff, the secret service and the press. Wanda also explains how meals were prepared onboard and what different presidents liked to eat (and what they didn’t like). 
  • Lastly, Wanda shares never-before-heard tales from her experiences aboard Air Force One. She tells stories about presidents inviting the Air Force One crew to various holiday parties and church services. As well, she shares that she was with George W. Bush during the 9/11 attacks. Wanda also explains the various security measures that are taken aboard Air Force One, and where the protector of the nuclear football sits on the plane. 


About the Guest:

Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell served 24 years as a flight attendant for Air Forces One and deputy and superintendent of First Lady Operations. Wanda was the first African-American woman to be selected to serve on Air Force One. Wanda currently enjoys speaking at events and schools and spending time with her son, Darius. 

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