James Buzzelli, 66; was navigator of Air Force One
By Washington Post | June 13, 2006
WASHINGTON — James Anthony “Buzz” Buzzelli, a retired Air Force colonel who spent part of his military career as head navigator aboard Air Force One, died of cardiac arrest June 2 at a hospital in Charleston, S.C. The former Alexandria, Va., resident had lived on Kiawah Island, S.C., since the early 1990s. He was 66.
Colonel Buzzelli, a Vietnam War veteran, served as a navigator with the 89th Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a member of the Air Force One flight crew for President Carter and during President Reagan’s first term.
The day after Christmas in 1983, Reagan promoted Colonel Buzzelli to full colonel during an early-morning ceremony aboard Air Force One. Afterward, the crew flew Reagan to Palm Springs, Calif., where he traditionally celebrated the new year.
At the time, the Air Force One fleet consisted of two Boeing 707s. When Colonel Buzzelli left the 89th Squadron in 1984, he became deputy director of the White House Military Office and oversaw the acquisition of the two specially modified Boeing 747 jetliners that have been used for presidential transport since 1990. He was also active in the design of the aircraft communications system.
A native of Blairsville, Pa., Colonel Buzzelli graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he attended on a football scholarship. He received a master’s in business administration from Central Michigan University.
He joined the Air Force in the early 1960s. During the Vietnam War, he served mostly as a navigator on C-141 cargo planes . At the end of the war, he served as a weapons officer on an F-111 fighter-bomber. Colonel Buzzelli retired from active military duty in 1991.