After Barack Obama is sworn into office on Jan. 20, Bush will fly again on the familiar blue-and-white presidential aircraft, but it won't be called Air Force One because he no longer will be the president. If Bush has to fly before that, it's not in the plans now.
"I don't think it had dawned on him that it was his last flight on Air Force One," White House press secretary Dana Perino told reporters on the plane as it returned to Washington from Norfolk, Va., where he commissioned the Navy's newest ship, the USS George H.W. Bush, named after his father.
After a reporter mentioned it, the president said, "You know, you're right," Perino said, adding that he was moved by the commissioning ceremony.
"His whole family is here and that's all that matters to him," she added.
Members of the Bush family and some of the president's friends, who attended the commissioning ceremony, shared the roughly 40-minute flight with Bush back to Washington.
Once inside, Bush got off and spent about 25 minutes visiting privately with members of the Presidential Airlift Group.
First lady Laura Bush, their daughters, Barbara Bush and Jenna Hager, and her husband, Henry Hager, joined him in thanking the dozens of flight attendants, maintenance workers and others who handle everything from food to fuel for Air Force One.