Over time, the planes went through The First Lady’s treatment. Thanks to President Kennedy’s always-fashionable wife, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the presidents have had a plane with a stunning two-toned blue paint job for the last few decades. Air Force One has a mysterious feel to it, mostly because it is completely off-limits to most of us. So, now that it is expected to undergo a transformation let’s look at its bells and whistles… at least those we’re aware of.
Modern-day Air Force One was designed off of the very modified Boeing 747. The plane features three decks. The lowest level of the plane is used for the most part as cargo space. The majority of passenger space is on the middle level, and the upper level is dedicated to communications equipment. There are two entrances on the plane. The front entrance near the nose of the plane is for the president, his family, and special guests.
This is the iconic location you have probably seen in pictures of the President waving as he enters and exits the plane. The second entrance is designated for journalists and other staff. The plane has its own retractable stairways for both entrances. The stairs open onto the lower deck, and crew members and staff climb internal staircases to reach the upper decks.
The aircraft has more facilities than you could ever think and dream of, and of course, it takes care of all the president's needs. One of those needs of great importance is the President's health. On the plane, you will find a fully stocked medical suite that houses a team of skilled and qualified doctors, nurses, and surgeons.
It includes an extensive pharmacy, emergency room equipment, and even a fold-out operating table. While the President's health is of utmost importance on the plane, all passengers are allowed to receive medical treatment. Most importantly, the plane is always prepared for any emergency.
4,000 Square Feet
The three decks of Air Force One stretch 4,000 square feet. That's a lot of square feet. Similar to the White House, the plane is equipped with everything the president might need for his usual work or daily life. There are conference rooms, a medical suite with an operating room, a kitchen, a master bedroom, and probably more things that we don't know of.
The President also has his own suite that features a large office, bathroom, and conference room. And for those accompanying the President, like senior advisors, Secret Service officers, and media, there are also special quarters for them.
In the case that a backup for Air Force One is needed, its big brother steps in. His name is E-4B, AKA "Doomsday Plane." The E-4B is an airborne nuclear bunker and command center that was designed during the Cold War as protection from a nuclear attack. Doomsday is always on standby, following Air Force One in case of an emergency. There are reportedly four Doomsday Planes in existence.
Both Air Force One and "Doomsday" are able to stay in the air for days and outrun even the blow of a nuclear explosion. Just like Air Force One planes, most of the Doomsday Planes’ capacities are classified information.
The President needs to be ready to travel anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. For this reason, Air Force One can fly at a speed that is close to the speed of sound. The typical cruising speed of the Air Force One is 580 miles per hour. But, it can fly or, shall we say, zoom up to a speed of 650 mph. It can also fly high and reach a maximum altitude of 45,100 feet, far above commercial flights' height.
It's important for the plane to be able to travel fast, so when allies order a meeting promptly, the President can be almost anywhere within a few hours. And, of course, run from enemy aircraft at a record speed.
If you recall the thrilling refueling scene in “Air Force One,” I’ll have you know that it is actually true. As with many military aircraft, AFO has a distinct ability to refuel in the air. This is usually reserved for emergency situations only. And is very rarely used.
When the plane is at 35,000 feet, it can extend a pole at its tail and give to a trailing aircraft. Because of this feature, the plane is able to stay in the air for as long as necessary and keep the president safe and far from any disasters on the ground.
Built To Survive
When you're under a nuclear attack, your chance of survival is basically at 0%. So, if that happens, you better find the AFO and take cover. In the AFO, you have a good chance of surviving an attack. Air Force One is a bunker in the case of a nuclear attack. The body of the plane has armor-plating and armor-plated glass in the windows.
The plane is able to outrun the blast from a ground attack and be a blast-shelter of sorts as well. Plus, radioactive material can't impale the body of the plane. There are probably more details we don't know of because they are kept top-secret.
You'll never have to worry about going hungry while on board, and the food onboard is way better than what the rest of us are eating when we fly. The place is always stocked with fresh ingredients (in case of an extended flight), which are prepared by several chefs in two complete kitchens. Most of the meals are created in a kitchen at Joint Base Andrews, where they are then vacuum-sealed and frozen. The crew then reheats the meals on the plane.
Two kitchens allow the staff to prepare 4-course meals for 100 people in such a tight space, at 45,000 feet in the air. One thing that is lacking in Air Force One’s kitchens is a fryer. For this reason, the fries on board tend to be soggy. To keep top-of-the-line food fresh, what do you need? Two $12 million refrigerators, of course, the amount that the refrigerators on Air Force One reportedly cost. Fortunately and logically, the order for the refrigerators was canceled.
On Air Force One, it's not necessary to turn your phone off during takeoff, like passengers are used to on commercial flights. The President can't step out of his role for 15 minutes during takeoff as well as during the whole flight. And if his phone stops working? Why can he use one of the other 84 phones on the plane? There are many phones distributed throughout the cabins to allow staff to keep working.
Besides telephones, there is also a collection of two-way radios, fax machines, 19 televisions, and different office equipment. The president and his staff are able to contact anybody in the world despite being tens of thousands of feet in the air.
Only after around 1985 could you find Coors Beer widely distributed in the United States. Before this, it could only be found in some western states. So, when President Ford visited the states that sold the beer, he would smuggle them on board back to D.C. At one time, he apparently took out AFO solely to stock up on beer.
We promise that his trip included some work as well, but the beer pickup was the prime motive. You see, no matter what high position you hold, and even if you are the president of the U.S.A., when it comes to the things we love, all humans are the same.
National security was at an all-time high during the Cold War. Allen Dulles, the CIA director at the time, transformed AFO into a spy plane. Very powerful cameras were placed in the plane's wheel wells to read license plates from 29,000 feet in the air. There is no indication that Eisenhower approved of this undertaking, and it is doubtful that he even knew about it.
When you think of it, it's shocking how these things happen, and people authorize them to proceed without the number one man even being aware of it. I'm not sure this kind of thing could have happened these days.
Flying Command Center
The President takes to AFO when there is a terrorist attack like 9/11. During an incident such as this, AFO essentially transforms into the "flying White House." Thanks to its mobile command center, which is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, plus an array of other top-notch gadgets, the President and his staff can lead the country when the safety of the White House is threatened.
So, in the event of an attack on the U.S., the president has everything he needs to respond. Until they receive the clear, AFO is the safest place for him to be.
Presidential Plane Takes Precedence
AFO becomes the top priority with air traffic controllers during a takeoff or landing. It's common practice for traffic control to stop all commercial traffic at public airports when the AFO leaves the ground or returns. The Presidential plane usually lands at military airports for obvious reasons, both for security measures and to avoid the ruckus caused at civilian airports.
When the plane does make a landing, the airport is made aware of its landing well beforehand, and the entire air space is cleared in order to guarantee a safe landing. During its landing, there is no help from outside services, as there is a special Air Force One team that takes care of all of the plane's activities. Of course, the plane has its own baggage loader, so it never has to use an airport’s baggage facilities, which could pose a security risk.
Airforce Jelly Bean
President Reagan had such an affinity for jelly beans that both the Oval Office and Air Force One always had a supply of jelly beans for him. Reagan’s love for jelly beans began when he toured the White House as a young boy and was given some to eat. He felt that jelly beans were a symbol of America.
But, the crew on Air Force One is much better than just providing the President with his favorite candy. They also know how every single person likes their coffee. President Bush drank his coffee black with Equal, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took decaf with cream and Equal on the side. There was no need for them to ask.
98, 99, 100!
The kitchen may be able to feed 100 people, but that doesn't guarantee that there are always 100 people on board. In fact, for the most comfortable ride, 96 is apparently the perfect number. And don't for a second think that all passengers get their meals for free.
The cost of operating Air Force One is high. We would hope that for a plane ticket fee of $80,000 per journalist per trip, they're at least getting some water and some pretzels for free. Because of the exaggerated cost, most journalists fly the charter plane that follows Air Force One to the destination.
You might feel like you are in grade school again because every White House administration is equipped with its own seating chart. Secret Service may allow passengers to move freely toward the back of the plane while in flight, but they definitely can’t walk forward past their own seats. The "admins" assign the seating.
Still, more than half of the seats on the plane are saved for press and Secret Service agents anyway, so there aren't too many opportunities to get things messed up anyway. We can only wish regular economy passenger flights were as organized as AFO are.
The present-day Boeing 747s cost about $380 million to build. If you think that's a lot, try the Air Force One. $660,000,000 - $660 million! With its many features (plus the ones we don't know about), the Air Force paid the bill in installments of $140 million each.
And if that sounds like a lot (because it is), wait until you hear how much the deal former President Donald Trump reached with Boeing Co. for the new Air Force One program- $3.9 billion! So, having a President costs a lot of money, and having one these days of age, costs even more.
Department Of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security is not so different from the home ministries of other countries. The Department, much like its name, is responsible for public security. They are the department that deals with anti-terrorism, immigration, customs, border security, and cybersecurity. President Bush created the department in 2002 while flying to Berlin. The department was established in response to the September 11 attacks.
The official announcement of its establishment was: "The mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States."
Blasting Inside And Out
The captain of the plane controls the radio. But don't worry, the President is the one who chooses the music for the ride. When they aren’t busy managing the country on Air Force One, they, too, have to find ways to entertain themselves. Clinton loved to play jazz music at high volumes, something that not many people could appreciate. He also liked to bring his saxophone on board.
He apparently played music extra loud due to bad hearing. Why doesn't Spotify add the president's playlist so we can all enjoy their favorite tunes? We can see ourselves opening the day with Rosevelt, continuing with Clinton, and ending a quiet evening with Ronald Ragen's favorite hits.
And the Cost to Operate Per Hour Is...
When you are comparing the cost of operating AFO for an hour to the national debt, it doesn't sound like much. But, when you compare it to the $20,000 to $25,000 an hour it costs to operate a commercial 747, it's exorbitant. For $200,000 thousand an hour, you can take the aircraft out.
Presidential travel is a very complex operation. It involves hundreds of people, dozens of vehicles, and a fleet of aircraft. For the hefty cost, we are sure you are starting to understand now why there was such outrage regarding former President Trump's many golf outings.
While the plane is filled with the latest trends in technology, it's still not wireless. So, to power up the screens, phones, and all other devices, it's necessary to plug in. Can you imagine what that looks like? Two hundred forty miles of cables ran inside the plane. I can't imagine getting wrapped up in that mess!
That would definitely be a burden to the electrician who finished that job. Poor cable guy. Could you imagine what will happen when just one cable becomes faulty? He'll have to work really fast, as the AFO cannot be grounded for too long.
No Broccoli Allowed!
By now, you should have gathered that only the most important political figures are allowed to step foot on the plane. And, of course, anything that the President disagrees with is strictly forbidden. That includes certain foods too. So, when the 41st President loathed broccoli, it was obvious that they would keep that off the plane.
During his presidency, broccoli was never used in any of the cooking, both in the skies and on the ground. As it turned out, every president has his ( or hers) own wishes, and if you don't like your greens, then greens will not go on board.
The Perfect Movie
For some reason, fliers of AFO are big fans of the movie Fargo. Most particularly, during Clinton's 96' bid for his second term, everyone on board was watching the Coen Brother's film. It won the title of "the record-holder of Longest Playing Film Abroad Air Force One" by the popular journalist Helen Thomas.
Clinton shared that it played at least 25 times (wow!), and his staff members used to repeat lines from the dark comedy. So, there are some things that the Marines adore, some things that pilots find the best ever made, and some movies presidents can't live without.
Waiting for a Haircut
In 1993, air traffic controllers, passengers, and LAX airport shared one thing in common: their annoyance towards President Clinton for delaying many flights. The President sat on the runway, getting his hair cut and forcing controllers to decide what they would do on a whim.
Air Traffic controllers scrambled to try and make sure that no other planes were coming and going during his haircut, creating a huge mess. But, as the President of the United States, it's important to look good and arrive in style. We just think he could have waited until the plane was safely up in the air for that.
The "IT" Factor
While many people assume that AFO is one plane, it's actually really a name. Whatever plane the President is flying in is called AFO. However, the president doesn’t always fly on airplanes. If the President is flying in an Army aircraft, it takes on the name Army One. And, if he's in a helicopter, it's called Marine One. So Marine One is the radio call sign for a Marine Corps helicopter that is transporting the president.
Lockheed is building six new helicopters for Marine One, and the first is expected to enter service in 2020. Helicopters in the Marine One fleet have ballistic armor and anti-missile defenses. Their pilots are from Marine Helicopter Squadron One, and they are known as the Nighthawks.
There is not one plane that can define "Air Force One." That being said, there is still one plane that is almost identical to the Boeing plane that carries the President around the world. There are only minor differences between the two planes (if you don't know much about planes they will seem the same to you), but they are both extremely large aircraft.
How big? They both stand over six stories tall, which is a whole lot taller than many other planes we know. The Air Force One has got to be the greatest of all. Air Force One. The best (number one) a man can get.
Seal of Approval
Air Force One would take the honors if the Presidency had a logo. It was constructed and designed to be an intimate and noticeable presence wherever it flies or sits. It's difficult to get the plane confused with another, as it's clearly labeled with the words "United States of America," with a picture of the American flag and the Seal of the President of the United States. Its blue color is certainly eye-catching and was chosen thanks to President JFK’s love of the color blue.
The airplane must always keep up its appearance because it is a symbol of America and the president who is riding in it. The status of the plane is also a symbol of the United State’s military and economic power and strength and is unrivaled for the most part.
Air Force One is a shared collaboration between three key parties: The White House, Secret Service, and Boeing. It needs to be produced up to the standards of Boeing, have the safety measures ascribed by the Secret Service, and have the operational efficiency set forth by the White House.
The purchase of a plane can be made only in the second term of a current president so that president can’t just use the plane they chose. Could you imagine every new president choosing a new plane, changing design and decor? We don't think so. They have more important things to take care of.
This one knocks us out of the park. We know that planes can fly us across oceans. But, for the AFO, the plane can fly halfway across the world. That's around 12,000 miles. To reach such an endeavor, the plane can carry around 52,000 gallons of fuel. With a full tank, that's enough fuel to get it halfway around the world.
Air Force One is an impressive piece of equipment, but it is not the only one. Have a look at this list of the world's most impressive presidential airplanes, their amazing features, and how much they cost.
Mexico's Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner – $600 million
Surpassing the famous Air Force One in cost and performance, this beautiful Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner is the world's most expensive plane, at a whopping $600 million. It was the official presidential aircraft for Mexico's ex-president, Enrique Peña Nieto, until Lopez Obrador succeeded him. This marvelous piece of equipment can fly 10,000 miles without refueling and sit up to 250 passengers. Oh, and if you're ever in the mood to make a quick trip from Los Angeles to Tokyo, you can take this baby and fly without stopping!
As if the price wasn't high enough, the aircraft costs another $100,000 a year to maintain! Any aviation enthusiast would be in awe of this groundbreaking airplane, but it's caused a stir among Mexican natives, and understandably so, since the levels of poverty and corruption in the country are soaring, and spending $600 million on a plane instead of fixing social issues is not the best way to gain the people's respect and support. Regardless, it's an outstanding piece of machinery.
Germany's Airbus A340-313X VIP – $306 million
Germany did a fantastic job at recycling a former Lufthansa Airbus A340 and converting it into a luxurious space, complete with rooms and technology. Even though Primer Minister Angela Merkel has several other airplanes at her disposal, this is the most famous one, and at $300 million, the most expensive one, too. The aircraft is officially known as the Konrad Adenauer, after the first Chancellor of Germany. All of Merkel's airplanes have the most advanced anti-missile defense technology.
The cool thing about this particular presidential aircraft is that, as we mentioned above, it was completely remodeled and turned into a modern personal jet for government officials. The aircraft can hold up to 150 passengers, and, like the other planes at her disposal, it is fully equipped with extravagant bedrooms, showers, offices, and an impressive conference room. Another impressive feature is that this aircraft counts with additional fuel tanks that allow it to fly non-stop for up to 13,000 km.
Britain's Airbus A330 – $250 million
The 32nd squadron of the Royal Air Force recently purchased a $250 million Airbus A330 for British Prime Minister Theresa May. The airplane has a comfortable 58-seat capacity for government officials and close staff and an extra 100-seat area in the airplane's tail for journalists. And this nifty little machine can refuel in the air!
The UK has the presidential airplane with the biggest passenger capacity on this list, and it is also one of the most modest. Supposedly, the purchase and renovations were made, taking the country's economic situation into account, claiming they actually saved a lot of money due to smaller engines and less fuel. All in all, the airplane is quite modest, even when it comes to its interior decor, but at $250 million, it still makes our list.
Saudi Arabia's Boeing 747 – $520 million
When it comes to splurging, King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's ruler until 2015, definitely tops the list. He decided to modify this Boeing 747 and turned it into a flying palace, complete with its very own fountain on board! The airplane itself cost approximately $228 million, but the King decided to jack up its price to $520 million by transforming its interior into something out of a 1600s royalty film set.
The aircraft is complete with five bedrooms, 20 smaller rooms, and a steam room made entirely out of marble. But wait, that's just the beginning. It also features a parking space for his beloved (and oh so humble) Rolls Royce, a private elevator, and a stunning grand piano with a concert hall. Frugal, huh?
Zimbabwe's Boeing 767 –$400 million
Considering Zimbabwe is among the top 20 poorest countries in the world, it's a bit ironic that its president would fly around in a $400 million airplane. However, this didn't stop President Mugabe from using it instead of using taxpayers' money to pay off the country's current $40 million debt. Regardless, it is a thing of beauty, flying at a speed of 858 km an hour.
Not only has the plane been decorated with Zimbabwe's flag colors on the outside, but it has been decorated in a way that is fit for royalty on the inside. Obviously, thinking about your country's issues is not a priority when you're working from an airplane that looks like this.
USA's Doomsday Plane (Modified Boeing 747) – $220 million
We've all heard of the famous Air Force One, but surely you didn't expect the leader of the free world to be content with just one plane? The US president has another outstanding piece of equipment at his disposal: the Doomsday Plane. Just like its eerie name suggests, this plane is to be used in case of emergencies and as a getaway vehicle in the most dangerous situations.
Now, this airplane is what we would call a technological marvel. As we said, it is to be used in the worst-case scenario. Not only can this airplane be in the air for 620 hours straight, but it can also go days without refueling. It has thermo-radiation shields surrounding the plane to protect it in case of a nuclear war. What's more, the equipment on the plane is so refined and advanced that it has the power to perfectly communicate with the outside world. Oh, and it needs a special air conditioning system in order to keep all the equipment in a perfect state. Let's hope we don't see this baby in the sky anytime soon, though.
Italy's Airbus A319CJ – $90 million
Italy's presidential aircraft is an Airbus A319 Corporate Jet (CJ). It is a classic model used by President Sergio Mattarella, and even though, as far as presidential planes go, it isn't particularly ostentatious, it is still an impressive piece of equipment with a very tasteful and classic European interior.
This $90 million airplane fits 30 passengers, but as it turns out, the Italian Air Force uses another 2 Corporate Jets! Guess the Italians are not so modest, after all. The Airbus A319 is flanked by two other equally impressive aircraft, which have 50 seats each. These are usually reserved for government officials.
Taiwan's Boeing 737 – $90 million
Even though it cost a whopping $90 million, Taiwan's presidential aircraft has very modest interiors (at least when compared to its international counterparts). It seems elegance and professionalism were Taiwan's main priorities regarding Tsai Ing-wen's air transportation.
But don't be fooled; this modest Boeing 737 counts with an onboard satellite that allows perfect communication with anywhere in the world during flights. Regarding Southeast Asian aircraft, airports, and air services, they can only provide the best. If you get an opportunity to fly a regular economy flight operated by Taiwan Airways, we can almost guarantee that there will be no going back.
Brazil's Airbus A319 – $81 million
With its national colors of green and yellow, the Brazilian presidential Airbus exudes a Latin American flare. At $81 million, this aircraft is a fine piece of machinery, and we're sure Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's new president, is more than happy flying around in it. It is known as the Santos-Dumont, named after a Brazilian inventor and aviation pioneer.
The Brazilian Airbus consists of three separate sections. One is for residential use exclusively. It consists of a big office, a stunning master suite, and a security room. Another section is for media guests, and the third is for guests of honor. It is decorated in a simple yet elegant style.
Russia's Ilyushin IL-96-300 – $50 million
It's not surprising that a world superpower like Russia would have an equally powerful presidential aircraft. President Vladimir Putin's main means of aerial transportation is an Ilyushin IL-96-300, and it cost around $50 million. But that's only for the airplane itself; redecorating the interiors was a whole other story.
The interior of this magnificent aircraft has a neoclassical style, combining gold and cream colors. The plane is comprised of Putin's luxurious master suite, which includes a grand, king-sized bed, a spacious bathroom with a gold-plated toilet, a very expensive private wine collection, a gym, and a war room complete with a gold-trimmed conference table and cream-colored leather seats. No wonder Putin is rumored to have clocked in more air miles than all other Russian presidents put together; who wouldn't want to fly around in this thing?!
France's Airbus A330-200 – $240 million
France's current president, Emmanuel Macron, seems to want for nothing when it comes to flying. Not that a president should, really. France's Airbus A330-200 is a modern and reliable aircraft designed for comfort and incomparable with other equipment when it comes to practicality and necessary amenities.
Apart from being very practical, the plane has a beautiful interior decoration throughout. It consists of a private presidential suite with a shower, a huge conference room with 60 seats, and more. The best thing about this airplane, though, is its far-reaching internet, which the president can access up to over 10,000 meters above ground.
Jordan's Airbus A340-600 – $275 million
Jordan's presidential aircraft is a thing of beauty. The $275 million Airbus A340-600 has one of the most advanced aviation technologies, with four Rolls-Royce engines that enable it to use significantly less fuel than other airplanes, making it a more "economical" and environmentally friendly option. This small aircraft can travel 7,800 km without refueling and reach an altitude of 12,500 meters.
However, around 2009, the King purchased a more modest $50 million aircraft, an A318-112 Elite. This is the shortest aircraft in the Airbus family. While the aircraft is smaller, it has state-of-the-art facilities and is as lavish as can be, complete with a bedroom, bathroom, office, and classic dining room. The cabin holds 19 passengers, but the King never likes more than eight people to be in the cabin simultaneously. We understand; you don't want to feel crowded in your own $50 million plane.
Bangladesh's Boeing 777-300ER – $260 million
When you think of Bangladesh, you don't immediately think of extravagance. We think of beautiful landscapes and a country that is still, sadly, very much suffering from poverty. But that didn't stop President Abdul Hamid from purchasing a $260 million piece of equipment for his official travels.
The good thing is, at least the airplane is an environmentally friendly option since it emits 22% less carbon dioxide than other airplanes of its kind. Since the air travel industry is not known for helping climate change, it's nice to see that things don't have to be that way. It has twin General Electric engines that make it one of the world's highest-performing airplanes.
Yemen's Boeing 747SP – $300 million
Yemen’s president, Abdrabbuh Hadi, used to fly around in a $300 million Boeing 747SP before it was destroyed in a fire after an attack at the main airport during the country’s civil war. Obviously, the president needed another means of air travel, but the following purchase had a significantly lower price tag.
After the destruction of the original plane, in 2015, the modest president decided he wanted to purchase a $75 million airplane the second time around. Not many details are known about the inside of the plane, apart from the fact that it is completely fitted for a VIP configuration.
Qatar's 14 Aircraft – Over $100 Million Each
Being one of the richest people on the planet, we didn't expect Qatar's Emir, Tamim Al Thani, to have anything short of a palace when it came to his presidential aircraft. But what we also didn't expect was for him to have 14 of them! They all belong to the Emir's personal airline, Qatar Amiri Flight. And why wouldn't you purchase your own airline at that point? Even if each little aircraft sets you back a modest $100 million?
The Emir of Qatar doesn't travel light, taking his entourage of up to 1,000 people with him on official government trips. And he apparently likes to flaunt his numerous aircraft collection, as he once went to Japan to visit the Primer Minister and arrived with ten jets!
Even up in the sky, Air Force One is a likely target for enemies. Considering that the US presidential plane doesn’t have any missiles onboard, it seems like the number one US citizen would be vulnerable. However, fear not, for flares act as the first line of defense. If a missile targets the plane, a flare would be ejected, and the missile would follow its heat signatures and be thrown off course.
If you’re a big fan of “Top Gun: Maverick,” you’ll remember this is the strategy Maverick and Rooster use to waylay their enemy and survive in the skies. This is the same strategy Air Force One follows, except they did it first – and Air Force One style.
Given how advanced technology is, it’s unsurprising that the current presidential aircraft model is the biggest it’s ever been. Though it has yet to enter service, the Boeing 737-10 (the largest of the Boeing 737 family) has a wingspan of 117 ft 10 in. (35.9m) and a length of 143 ft 8 in (48.3). When empty, the aircraft’s overall mass is 156,500 lbs (70,987kg). It seems that size really does matter.
The two planes making up Air Force One (two Boeing 747-200s) boast a total length of 231.82 ft (70.66 m), wingspan of 195.67 ft (59.64 m), and without fuel, the weight is an incredible 526463.88 lb (238800 kg). Thank goodness aviation and engineering are where they’re at, or such a plane would never take off.
It’s no secret that communication among presidents, prime ministers, and world leaders is pretty serious business. As we have learned from films like “The Imitation Game” and series like “The Bletchley Circle,” these figures tend to talk in code. However, technology has advanced since World War Two, and even talking in code has developed – even when traveling 40,000 ft (12,100 m) in the air.
While onboard Air Force One, communication with the president isn’t interrupted at all; however, this would be an obvious security risk. This is why Air Force One is equipped with encryption and scrambling devices that work on a two-way system. Both information coming in and going out are encrypted so that top-secret information doesn’t fall on the wrong ears.
Air Force Two
There’s been plenty of talk about Air Force One. There’s even a movie about it, so Air Force One has gotten loads of attention, but did you know there’s an Air Force Two? As you’ve probably guessed, Air Force Two refers to the radio call sign for the aircraft transporting the Vice President and company. Right now, the aircraft designated for Air Force Two is a C-32A, a specially militarized version of a Boeing 757-200.
Of course, as the second representative of the US, the VP’s aircraft is pretty modest in comparison to its bigger brother, the Boeing 747 200, used for Air Force One. But we’re pretty sure the VP isn’t complaining. After all, it’s equipped with telephones, satellites, and conference facilities.
Kennedy Starts a Trend
The ill-fated president, John F. Kennedy, left his mark on the US in more than one way. One of the trends this US president started involved Air Force One. When he took to office, he was the first US leader to fly in a modified plane. Before that, presidents didn’t have such sky-high privileges, but all that changed with JFK.
In 1962, JFK flew around in a Boeing 707 that had been specifically built and customized for him. While this was a trend that continued with other presidents, sadly, Kennedy’s modified Boeing 707 also had to carry the president’s body back to Washington after his assassination in Dallas in 1963.
They’re Due for an Upgrade
Who doesn’t love an upgrade? We’re pretty sure even US presidents get excited about upgrades, especially one to Air Force One. The planes are due for an upgrade as they have been in action since 1990. In fact, the 46th US President has a chance to have a test “run” in the new Air Force One model.
Boeing again won the contract to design the new fleet. The Boeing 747-8 model will become jazzed-up and militarily designed VC-25Bs serving soon as the presidential planes. We’re pretty sure the 46th US President can’t wait to have a joyride in the upgraded aircraft.
A Communication Suite
Being president is clearly a full-time job. While most of us can take a breather from constant IMs on flights by switching our phones on to flight mode, the president doesn’t have this same privilege. On Air Force One planes, a communication center has been installed, meaning the president can still engage in conferences – even at 40,000ft (12,100m). During Trump’s tenure, the communication suite had an upgrade.
Two bulbous satellite communications (SATCOM) were installed. On the planes’ spines, you can see two “humps” showing the exact position of these two satellites. Thanks to this advanced technology, the president can remain in contact during a world trip, thankfully, even during emergency situations.
LBJ Takes Office Onboard
After the assassination of JFK, there was little time to be lost, and his VP, Lyndon B. Johnson, had to step in. During JFK’s trip to Dallas, his VP had been traveling in the car behind him when, at 12:30, shots rang out, and the 35th president was assassinated. After the worst was confirmed, the Secret Service believed that LBJ was in danger and planned for LBJ and his family to return to Washington for their protection.
Roughly an hour after the hospital visit, LBJ and family were safely aboard Air Force One. During this return trip on November 22, 1963, LBJ took his oath as the 36th president of the USA. Apparently, it was a crowded affair as 72 people were squeezed aboard.
The OG Trend-Setter
Teddy Roosevelt made history when he traveled in 1906 for a 17-day trip to the Panama Canal. Teddy Roosevelt was the first US president to travel overseas via plane. Yet, it was his predecessor bearing his namesake, F.D. Roosevelt, who made history by being assigned his own presidential plane. During WW2, it was deemed too dangerous for a president to travel on commercial flights.
So, the “Sacred Crow” was introduced: a plane specifically designated for the president, as F.D. Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair because his legs were paralyzed after contracting polio, “Sacred Crow” was fitted with a low door and custom-made ramp, giving the president easy access. Thus, the second Roosevelt became the OG Air Force One trendsetter.
Australia’s “Shark One”
Trust the Aussie prime minister to fly under the name “Shark One.” When PM Scott Morrison started his tenure, he had the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) VIP fleet nicknamed “Shark One” after his NRL team, the Cronulla Sharks. When Morrison’s not busy rooting for his NRL team, he takes to the skies in “Shark One”: an Airbus A330, which previously flew for Qantas and Jetstar.
The plane was modified into a 100-seater airliner and tasked with transporting the Aussie PM and other ministers. After a reported $250 million upgrade, the plane now comfortably carries all traveling Australian emissaries on the same flight (which previously it hadn’t). It also boasts jetlag recovery sachets, which is something the Aussie bigwigs need as this plane can fly non-stop from Oz to Iowa.
Private Entrance and Exit
You’ve got to admit there are plenty of perks to being the president. Though you’re not guaranteed to have all that much privacy, at least when you’re boarding Air Force One, you’re guaranteed a bit of alone time. Even though journalists and other guests can travel on the presidential planes (for a hefty sum), they won’t actually see the POTUS in person.
This is because the planes are fitted with a private entrance/exit specifically for the POTUS. So even if you do get the opportunity to be on the same flight as the US president, you’re not going to board the plane via the same gangway.
FDR Created the Presidential Pilot Office
The Presidential Pilot Office’s sole mission is to transport the US president. This office is already several decades old, as it was something that Franklin D. Roosevelt created during his tenure. In 1941, Roosevelt declared that grounds in Maryland were to be used for an airfield. A year later, construction began, and the following year, the airbase became operational.
Though it has seen plenty of changes in the last decades, the Presidential Pilot Office is still located at this airbase, Andrews AFB, MD. Interestingly, the Presidential Pilot Office derived the name Andrews AFB, to honor Lieutenant General Frank Maxwell Andrews, the commander of the general headquarters of the US Air Force during WW2.
The Typical Motorcade
No, it’s not just something that you see in the movies. The Motorcade is a real thing. A motorcade is a precession or convoy of vehicles that is used for transporting the president. After traveling in Air Force One, the president will disembark and climb into an armored limo. Yeah, that’s a thing too. So, how exactly is the president’s armored vehicle waiting for him when he disembarks?
The incredible thing is the cargo plane, C-141 Starlifter, travels ahead of Air Force One. As you guessed, the C-141 Starlifter is carrying the president’s armored tank, a.k.a “The Beast”. That means even if the US president is traveling to another country, his motorcade will be ready to safely transport him within foreign boundaries.
The Nuclear Football Gets a Spot
Even football gets a spot on Air Force One. While we’re sure there’ve been plenty of US presidents who’ve been fans of the sport, we’re not speaking about the football they play on the field. The nuclear football refers to a briefcase containing documents that the US president uses to communicate and authorize a nuclear attack when away from a fixed command center. In short, it’s the president's traveling package for a nuclear war.
Generally, one of the president’s rotating military aides keeps the documents with him so that the president has quick access to them. The interesting part is that on Air Force One, a safe or vault has been installed specifically for nuclear football. So, even if the president is at dizzying heights, he can still respond effectively to a nuclear crisis.
The Presidential Suite
As Air Force One is one of the most luxurious airliners, it’s not surprising that there’s a suite just for the president. Situated in the nose of the plane, the presidential suite is made up of a private restroom and foldable sofas. Space is limited, but the designers worked around this as the sofas, when folded out, can be used as beds.
Back during Raegan’s tenure, the then First Lady, Nancy Raegan, had the interior decorated in southwestern décor, probably to pay homage to her husband’s acting days in B-grade Western films. Nancy Raegan certainly left her mark on Air Force One, as the theme is still maintained.
“Air Force One” Meets Air Force One
Of course, the best way to prepare for a film is to have real-life experience. And Wolfgang Petersen and the “Air Force One” crew got their opportunity when making the action thriller. In fact, after their real-life tour, the crew used this experience to help them create the film’s storyline. The Russian terrorists in the film disguised themselves as journalists, as during their tour, they learned that journalists could board the plane with the president.
Interestingly, Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell, who was played by Donna Bullock, was based on the real-life tour guide. The film crew may have gotten a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the presidential plane, but for the filming, they had to rent out a Boeing 747 146 aircraft, which was painted in standard Air Force One pattern.
The POTUS and VP Are Never Traveling Partners
Naturally, these two citizens are the most important members of American society. However, since the Air Force One program has been launched, these two will never be traveling partners. The reason – it’s too risky. If anything happens to the POTUS or VP, the other will be out of harm’s way.
A similar thing occurs with the British royalty. No two heirs can travel together. It’s a safety measure – and a really expensive one at that. In fact, Air Force Two has been created to get around this problem. As you’ve probably guessed, Air Force Two is the radio call signal referring to the plane in which the VP travels.
Having the 36th US president onboard wasn’t exactly smooth sailing – or rather, smooth flying – for everyone. A permanent thorn in the crew’s side was Johnson’s complaints over the temperature. Either it was too cold or too hot. The crew installed a fake thermostat, allowing LBJ to manipulate the controls without changing the internal temperature. It worked.
The 36th US president had no more complaints as long as he could “control” the temperature. But Johnson’s quirks were not quite done. LBJ loved his beagles. Whenever he went, they went too, including flights. The dogs used to get restless when LBJ was in the plane’s conference room, so doggy flaps were fitted into the doors so the hounds could move around freely – even at 42,000 ft (12 800m).
The Legacy of the Name
Thanks to movies like “Air Force One,” pretty much everyone knows that this name refers to the airliner carrying the president. However, Air Force One hasn’t always been the name. Back in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower was aboard his aircraft, which was called Air Force 8610.
Flying at the same time, a plane belonging to Eastern Air Lines with flight number 8610 bore exactly the same name, Air Force 8610. The world of aviation soon learned that the plane transporting the president would need a more unique name to avoid any air confusion. And since 1953, Air Force One has stuck. And now, with films starring Harrison Ford, it’s unlikely that this mishap will take place again.
No Terminal Here
If you find yourself traveling on Air Force One, then you’ll have a privilege most of us don’t have when it comes to flying – no terminals. Waiting in long lines at check-in counters, customs, and gates can be a real drag. Plus, you have to arrive hours before your flight – especially if you’re flying internationally. However, Air Force One passengers don’t have this problem because the president and crew never need to pass through a terminal.
As the plane comes with its own retractable staircase, the president can simply leave the plane and get into his wheels, which is an armored limo. We’re pretty sure that some of the passengers join the procession of vehicles making up the motorcade.
When it comes to anything big, rich, and extravagant, one name that comes to mind is businessman Donald Trump. The 45th President’s portfolio of assets is extensive. He owns golf courses, properties, and big stakes in hotels. It’s unsurprising that Trump also has his own private jet, a Boeing 757.
Even though the jet boasts a private bedroom, gold-plated seatbelts, family crests tailored on leather sofas, and other luxurious finishings, it simply doesn’t compete with Air Force One. Trump might have all the fancy finishings, but Air Force One airliners are larger, can travel longer, and can be refueled mid-flight. Little wonder Trump couldn’t wait to hop onto the presidential plane during his tenure.
It’s Really Loud
Though planes are a common enough phenomenon, their sound can be penetrating and can catch us off guard. Now, can you imagine the amount of noise Air Force One makes when it touches down? It’s an incredibly big plane and makes a cacophony of noise. It’s like parking a flying hotel. Some people who don’t need to imagine how loud the plane gets are residents of Westchester, New York.
In 2000, when Air Force One first touched down at Westchester County Airport to return the Clintons to their suburban home, 14 complaints about the level of noise were submitted by residents. While there are plenty of perks of having a president in your neighborhood, there is decidedly one very big downside.
There Is No Evacuation Pod but There’s a Plan
Since the 1997 film “Air Force One,” a myth has been perpetuated that Air Force One contains an emergency evacuation pod in case things come to a head. Sadly, for the film’s lovers, that isn’t the case. No such evacuation pod exists. That said, there is still an evacuation plan. There are three aircraft that are part of the evacuation plane.
Naturally, specific details on this subject are pretty hush-hush because it’s not exactly great planning if members of the public know about the president’s evacuation plan. What we do know is that in the case of a crisis, one of the three aircraft will be used for emergency transportation.
Two Shades of Blue
While the world is getting over its love of all the various shades of “grey,” the Kennedys tragically could never get over their infatuation with blue. Kennedy’s love of the hue inspired the paintwork of the presidential planes until Trump’s tenure. Two very specific tones of blue were used for the paintwork: Cyan and Slate. While these tones were used for the wings and the body of the plane, white was used for the top, and silver underneath.
Though loving blue would have put you into the Kennedys’ good books, you’d have to remember to be very specific about your shades of blue. Cyan and Slate apparently made the perfect pair for the presidential plane.
At maximum capacity, Air Force One can seat 102 people. Though journalists and guests are welcome on board, not as many as you’d think can make the cut. That’s because 26 of those 102 spots are reserved for the crew. Like most commercial planes, some key personnel are needed onboard, like the pilot and co-pilot, flight attendants, navigators, engineers, and baggage loaders.
If you thought being part of the cabin crew was difficult, imagine working for the Air Force One cabin crew. To get a job onboard Air Force One, you must be extremely capable. Talent is rigorously evaluated and thereafter trained. The good news is that once you make the cut, you generally enjoy peace of mind, as crew members tend to be employed for long stints.
Special Mission 41
It would be unkind as well as incorrect to say that Air Force One doesn’t have a heart. As we saw with the passing of former George H.W. Bush in 2018, Air Force One made its final trip with the 41st President. Interestingly, only the plane transporting the current president is referred to as Air Force One.
However, Trump hadn’t flown on the plane. A special mission was arranged, a.k.a. “Special Mission 41,” to carry the senior Bush’s body to the memorial service in Washington and then back to Houston to the late president’s resting place. Another specification of “Special Mission 41” was to have that plane redesigned to memorialize the late president, Bush.
The current Air Force One models are massive. In fact, massive doesn’t quite express how large these airliners are. It’s only reasonable that these flying machines depend on the hard work of some pretty impressive engines. There is not only one engine that keeps these Boeing 747-200B jets in the sky, but four. Each jet features four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 jet engines. Just one engine on its own generates 56,700 pounds of thrust.
To generate that amount of power, you need a pretty powerful engine. Together, the engines are one block long and have the same height as a building with six levels. We’re not surprised. After all, it takes serious engineering to keep a flying “hotel” and an oval office in the sky.
Airborne Oval Office
Just because the US President has an important trip to another state or country doesn’t mean that the meetings stop when he boards Air Force One. Clearly, being the president of the USA is a full-time job because even Air Force One planes have their own Oval Offices. The extensive communication and high-tech on the plane allow meetings to continue even if the president is flying high.
Though the aerial version is more cramped compared to its counterpart on firm ground, the airborne Oval Office boasts a desk, an easy chair for the president, several leather sofas, and other equipment. Taking sky-high meetings is all in a day’s work for the US president.
Air Force One planes have what it takes to survive a global catastrophe. However, these planes do not hoard toilet rolls – they hoard food and loads of it. Located on the bottom level of these presidential planes are massive freezers. These freezers can store plenty of food. At any one time on Air Force One, these freezers store enough food for 2000 meals. That’s a lot of food.
While the rest of us are rushing out to buy toilet paper, in the event of a global disaster, the president will certainly be able to have his cake – and eat it. He certainly won’t have to survive on cooked WC paper.
Something that might surprise all of us is that US presidents like to keep fit. In fact, one thing that is common to many US presidents is that they all in some way have an exercise regime (except Trump – who spends very little if no time working out). Bush took up running, Obama loves basketball and works out every day, and Raegan was a fan of horse riding and swimming.
Of course, Bush couldn’t exactly do a 3-mile run up in the air on Air Force One, but he did have access to his own personal gym. The presidential suite comes kitted out with a private gym, so even if you’re flying high, that’s no excuse to skip a workout.
Prohibition in the Skies
Air Force One serves the US President, while Air Force Two is reserved for his VP. There’s one rather odd distinction between these two planes. One is dry, and the other isn’t. What we mean by “dry” is that the VP’s plane allows no alcohol onboard. Air Force One, on the other hand, allows the President to party it up.
We’re not exactly sure where this rule comes from, but it sounds like some archaic leftover from the days of prohibition. Who’d have thought that there’d be prohibition in the skies? The VP has all the time to ponder over this question while sipping a glass of water.
Aviation technology and engineering have certainly come a long way. With such strides made in aviation, it means that bigger and bigger aircraft can take to the skies. However, back in Harry S. Truman’s days, that was not the case. The 33rd US president’s presidential plane was called The Independence, built in 1947. It was a military version of the Douglas DC-6.
While the current 747-200B jets carry 76 passengers and 26 crew members, during Truman’s tenure, The Independence carried 25 passengers and nine crew members. Another noticeable change from 1947 is the amount of space. Despite carrying three times the number of passengers, it is a lot less cramped on the 747-200B jets.
Retired Air Force One planes are part of US history, too. During the beginning of George W. Bush’s tenure, in 2001, the VC-137C SAM 27000 that flew under the radio call sign Air Force One was retired. Though the plane stepped down from its job of transporting US presidents, it's still serving its country.
SAM 27000 was taken apart and shipped to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Park. In the library’s huge hangar, visitors can now see the former Air Force One plane with their own eyes and actually explore its massive structure. Though none of us will ever get the chance to fly on Air Force One, touring SAM 27000 is the closest we can get to the real thing.
Air Force One isn’t the name of a specific plane. It’s the name of any aircraft carrying the president. In all of US history, only one president has had his own “Navy One.” After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (which sparked the US-Iraq war), President George W. Bush landed on the “USS Abraham Lincoln”.
The Lockheed S-3 Viking transporting the former president was dubbed “Navy One.” A Lockheed S-3 Viking was a twin-engine turbofan used in anti-submarine conflict. In 2003, Bush dubbed his Lockhead “Navy One,” not because of its color but because it acted as his naval transport aircraft to the “USS Abraham Lincoln.”
Strict Gas Security
When you have the job of transporting the president, even the minutest of details are treated with great importance. The plane’s fuel is one such thing. Roughly 53,000 gallons are used to fill up the plane’s tank. That’s a lot of fuel. Before the plane is filled up, the fuel is separated, tested, and then stored in a locked tanker.
The storage tanker is located at the Joint Base Andrews in Washington D.C. which is the primary fueling center for Air Force One. At this location, Air Force One’s gas is given top-notch security. In fact, the gas of the stately plane gets better security than most people’s homes – all 53,000 gallons of it.
A Quick Snooze
Working for the president can be tiring. Continuous traveling for work can be tiring, too. If you put them together, being a president’s top advisor and having to travel continually must be one of the most exhausting jobs. It seems like the designers who arranged the interior of Air Force One knew that these officials would reach the limits of exhaustion.
That’s the only explanation for the president's padded cover that folds out over a toilet seat. They knew that a president's aid or official would need a bit of shut-eye. And if there’s one place you’d guaranteed a bit of privacy, it’s the WC. While it’s certainly one of the more unusual additions to Air Force One, the foldout cover in the toilet is completely understandable.
The Press Cabin
It’s not only the president’s “men” who accompany the president on Air Force One trips. Some members of the public are guests aboard this luxurious plane. These individuals generally are journalists and members of the press. They patiently wait for the president to make a visit to them in the rear of the plane.
While most of us are familiar with cabin pressure, Air Force One has a press cabin. That means the press have their cabin where they enjoy their flight and patiently wait for the president or an official to visit. The press cabin is fitted with a phone so members of the press can make urgent calls. The policy of Air Force One is business calls only.
Can Force One
The Canadian counterpart to the USA’s Air Force One, Can Force One, doesn’t sound nearly as promising, but it does the job of escorting Canadian presidents to and from their destinations. At least, it does, but for quite the sum. Bright white on the top is accompanied by red and blue on the underbelly.
Can Force One is made up of a fleet of five CC-150 Polaris. The entire fleet will be upgraded soon but at a staggering price of C$5 billion (US$4 billion). Airbus was awarded the contract, and the chosen model for the next Can Force One is the A330 MRTT model. MRTT stands for Multi-Role Tanker Transport, meaning that, like its Air Force One counterpart, Can Force One can be refueled mid-flight.