50 Secrets of Air Force One
Throughout history, Air Force One has been the symbol of the president and the United States of America. This plane has gone through many changes from the prop planes of the past. It is one of the most technically advanced aircraft to ever be built, and an expensive one at that.
The president conducts many important business trips out of Air Force One and even has an Oval Office onboard. It is commonly referred to as the flying White House and can be seen all around the world. The aircraft is an important part of the presidential administration and plays a critical role in the business of the federal government.
Air Force One is equipped with a mobile command center to suit the needs of the President. The electronics are hardened enough to withstand an electromagnetic pulse making it very secure under dire circumstances.
The plane is also equipped with advanced secure communications equipment that allows it to communicate without being compromised. Whenever there is a global emergency or terrorist attack the president takes to Air Force One, which acts as the "flying White House." The mobile command center is well equipped so that the president can stay in touch in such situations.
More Than One Air Force One
There are two planes that are designated as Air Force One and one of them is always ready to fly. The other is an almost exact copy of the highly customized Boeing and serves as a backup when needed.
The two planes hold specific tail numbers that are 28000 and 29000. Both of these planes are designated as the official planes for presidential travel and have been in service since 1990.
The President Has A Personal Quarters
The President of the United States of America gets his own personal space aboard Air Force One. Any room that is lined with stars on the carpet is considered the president's personal space.
The president has his own office in which he can conduct business and have personal talks. The secret service is positioned just outside of the office in case of any emergencies. There is also a private suite in which the president can relax and unwind in during the flight. The suite includes a bed, some couches, and a private bathroom.
Different Phones For Use
Air Force One has at least 85 telephones and multi-frequency radios within the plane that are used for classified and unclassified use. The phones that are used by the president have a brown/gold color to them and all of the others are a standard gray color.
There are many phones to insure open lines in case of emergencies, these lines can either make secured or unsecured calls. These phones provide Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS) for internet and digital voice access. This ensures that there is always reliable connectivity within the plane.
Air Force One is equipped with multiple kitchens that serve the crew delicious meals. The meals are prepared by chefs in a special kitchen at Joint Base Andrews and vacuum sealed to be prepared aboard the plane.
Every meal is served on special china that is branded with the presidential seal. They provide many specialty dishes that are far better than what you would get on a traditional airline. Chefs will sometimes prepare meals around what the president likes.
There's Always A Doctor On Board
Air Force One always has a doctor onboard at all times in case of a medical emergency. The doctor has a medical cabin on the plane that can easily be turned into an emergency room.
The medical cabin has many supplies such as defibrillators, IV pumps, and a variety of medications. There is a space that allows the doctor to perform basic surgical procedures if needed. Air Force One is equipped with advanced medical supplies to provide for any emergencies that may happen.
There are many defense systems equipped on Air Force One that allow it to protect the crew in case it enters dangerous territory. The body of the plane and its windows are reinforced to withstand a nuclear attack on the ground.
Air Force One is also equipped with electronic countermeasures that can jam enemy radars, protecting it against an attack and allowing its location to stay anonymous. There is also an infrared countermeasure system that can redirect or confuse enemy missiles. Flares can be deployed as a backup in case the infrared system does not counter a missile.
Can Stay In Flight Indefinitely
Air Force One can travel up to 7,800 miles without refueling and can carry up to 53,611 gallons of fuel. The new airforce one that is in production is expected to fly 1,000 nautical miles further than the current one.
Air Force One is capable of flying indefinitely if needed, having an aircraft refuel the plane in mid-flight. This is only used in emergency situations and can allow the president to stay safe if there are any unsafe conditions on the ground.
The Entire Body Is Armor Plated
Air Force One is a force to be reckoned with and it carries one of the most important figures in the United States. With such importance comes protection and Air Force One is heavily armored.
The entire body is made of armor-plating and all of the windows are armor-plated glass as well. Most of the specs are classified, so most of the details are kept top secret. We can guess that most of the armor plating that forms the aircraft is bulletproof and can stop a range of ammunition types.
Air Force One Has Its Own Airspace
When Air Force One takes off or lands at an airport there is a 10-nautical mile radius around the plane that only scheduled and government flights are allowed. The aircraft usually lands at military airports, but when it does land at a public airport, it takes priority for air traffic controllers.
The entire airspace is usually cleared and the airport is notified beforehand. Planes that violate the airspace can suffer severe penalties such as a pilot's license suspension. Air Force One doesn't take any help from outside services, it has its own crew that takes care of loading and offloading.
Has A Doomsday Plane That Follows
There is a plane that always follows Air Force One and it is nicknamed the "Doomsday" plane. The aircraft is an E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Post and it is a nuclear bunker and command center.
This plane was designed during the Cold War to protect against nuclear destruction. Since then it has always been on standby and following Air Force One in case a need arises. There are four known planes in existence and they are equipped with advanced technologies that are mainly classified.
The Crew Has Substantial Training
To be part of the crew that runs Air Force One, you have to be rigorously trained in military survival training. Pilots require thousands of flight hours of experience to even be considered for the job. Most of these pilots come from the Air Force, having logged many hours in military craft flying.
Flight attendants and crew are hand-picked for their jobs and undergo regular recurrent training. The entire crew has to go through immense training that teaches them safety and survival in case of an emergency. The training is supposed to be very intense to prepare them if they do go down in enemy territory.
There Are Two New Air Force Ones Being Built
Boeing made a deal with the United States Government for two new VC-25B aircraft that will be designated as the new Air Force One planes. Many negotiations took place to negotiate a price and it ended up being $3.9 billion.
The new aircraft are being built in Texas and they are expected to arrive by 2026, which is two years later than what was expected. It is a more advanced aircraft that will have new defense systems and many classified specifications and capabilities. The one downside to the new Air Force One is that it will no longer have air-to-air refueling, instead, it will have a longer flight time.
Air Force One Name
"Air Force One" isn't actually the name of the plane, it's a callsign that is designated to whichever aircraft the president is aboard. The first time this term was used was in 1953 after an altercation happened in which another plane had a similar name as the Air Force One plane.
It was established as "Air Force One" so that it wouldn't get any other flights confused with the president's plane. If the president is on board a helicopter then that is designated as "Marine One" instead of "Air Force One."
Air Force One Parking
When Air Force One lands at a public airport it never pulls up to a terminal, instead, it stays where it lands and the crew performs all of the operations there. Air Force One has its own crew to disembark the plane and take out all of the luggage.
The aircraft is always on standby if the president ever needs to be evacuated and take off immediately. When Air Force One is not in use it is parked in hangars at Andrews Air Force Base which is located outside of Washington DC. In this hangar, the aircraft undergoes maintenance and repairs.
Presidential Airlift Group
The Presidential Airlift Group was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as an official part of the White House Military Office. This is a component of the 89th Airlift Wing division that is responsible for operating and maintaining Air Force One.
When Roosevelt called the Presidential Airlift Group into action, he meant for it to provide the president with reliable transportation and safe, secure communications. This division is highly trained and able to perform all the duties that are needed to operate and maintain the aircraft.
The Amount of Space On Air Force One
Air Force One is a modified Boeing 747 that is three stories high and has many functional spaces within. The bottom level is used mostly for baggage and cargo, with most of the passenger space being in the middle level.
The plane has two entrances with the front one being for the president, his family, and special guests. The other entrance is meant for journalists and staff to enter through. There is space for many passengers to relax as well as rooms that store communications equipment. The president has his own office space and a conference room to discuss business in. All of this space in Air Force One equals out to about 4,000 square feet with every bit of space being fully used.
The crew aboard Air Force One is known to cater to all the dignitaries of the president and passengers alike. With such important people being on the flight the crew makes sure to know how everyone likes their food and coffee.
When President Bush was aboard Air Force One the crew knew that he liked his coffee black with Equal sugar. Even when Reagan was president the crew knew he was such a big fan of Jelly Beans, so they always had Jelly Beans on board Air Force One. They also know which foods the president prefers or dislikes and try to design the menu around it.
Jackie Kennedy Design
During the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Air Force One went through a visual redesign to make it look less like a military plane and have more style. His wife, Jackie Kennedy, was always known for her big fashion statements and helped with the design by hiring a famous French industrial designer by the name of Raymond Loewy.
Raymond was one of the most successful designers of his time and created many different icons such as Coca-Cola vending machines and even the famous Greyhound buses. The interior was mainly influenced by Jackie Kennedy and even the sea foam blue exterior was overseen by her.
Motorcade Arrives Before Air Force One
If you have ever seen the president arrive anywhere, then you know that he has a big armored limo that is called the motorcade. The motorcade travels with the president even to other countries.
The motorcade is usually sent ahead of Air Force One aboard a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane and it arrives ready and waiting for the president's arrival. This is to insure the president has safe transportation on and off the ground. It is said that the cargo plane also transports its own fuel for the motorcade so that there is no chance that the fuel can be contaminated by someone.
Speed And Height
Air Force One is one of the fastest aircraft for its size and can almost travel at the speed of sound. It has a top speed of 600 miles per hour and in one instance traveled so fast that an F-16 pilot had trouble catching up to it during the 9/11 disaster.
The typical cruising speed for the Air Force One aircraft is about 580 miles per hour and can even go halfway around the world when it is fully fueled. The aircraft can reach altitudes above 45,000 feet which is much higher than the altitude of commercial flights.
Each Flight Is A Military Operation
Every flight is classified and operated as a military operation and is handled with care and routine. Everything is double-checked and looked over especially the maintenance of the plane and clearing of any debris on the runway.
When the president arrives on the Marine One helicopter, teams are established all over the area to make sure there are no breaches and no airplanes are violating the airspace. The president always has a briefcase that is called "the football" that carries nuclear codes just in case the need arises. The crew all has specific assignments when boarding and military personnel always secure the area.
There are many special treats on Air Force One that are exclusive to the flight and the White House. Many things are coated with the presidential seal including plates, silverware, and even M&M's. These candies are passed out to guests aboard Air Force One and were first given out in 1988, replacing cigarettes as the standard gift to guests.
The boxes of M&M's are usually red, white, and blue in color with the seal of the president and the signature of the sitting president on it. The other side of the box has the M&M characters holding the flag of the United States.
Air Force One Spy Plane
During the Cold War, national security was at an all-time high, and due to this, the CIA director at that time turned Air Force One into an actual spy plane. In 1959 the plane was installed with secret powerful cameras that were hidden within the wheel wells.
These cameras were so advanced that they were able to read a license plate from 29,000 feet in the air. It is said that President Eisenhower didn't know about the cameras during that time and would probably not have approved of them.
Favorite Film Aboard
The movie Fargo was a popular film among fliers and crew aboard Air Force One, especially during Clinton's presidency. During his presidency, it was said that everyone aboard was watching the film and even quoting many lines from it.
Fargo was a dark comedy crime film that was produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It supposedly won the title of “Longest Playing Film Aboard Air Force One.” President Clinton shared that the movie was played at least 25 times during his presidency and was well-loved by all the staff.
First To Fly For State Business
The first plane purchased for presidential use was in 1933 and it was a Douglas Dolphin seaplane. Although there was a presidential plane, no president had actually used it on official state business until 1943.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to use a presidential plane for state business for a war strategy meeting in Casablanca, Morocco. The presidential plane Roosevelt took was a Boeing 314 Flying Boat and it took him four days just to make it to Morrocco. The plane departed from Florida and flew through the Caribbean to Brazil before departing on the trans-Atlantic flight to Morrocco.
The term "Air Force One" distinguishes which plane the president is aboard at the time, but there is also another term called "Navy One." This term is used to distinguish whichever Navy aircraft the president is on.
There has only been one time that an aircraft has ever been designated Navy One and it was when George W. Bush was president. An S-3 was used to transport President Bush to an aircraft off the coast of San Diego in 2003. The aircraft was retired later that year and was put on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Lyndon Johnson Takes Oath On Air Force One
Everyone knows about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy but not many people know that Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One. Lyndon Johnson was accompanied by his wife, Claudia, and Jackie Kennedy while taking the oath.
It was said that instead of a bible being used to take the oath, Johnson swore upon a missal found on a side table within Kennedy's Air Force One office. Judge Sarah Hughes administered the oath of office to Johnson just before departing to Washington, D.C. Accounts say that once Johnson took the oath he looked at Jackie Kennedy and said "The whole nation mourns your husband."
Big Crew On Air Force One
Air Force One is a big plane and that means it comes with a big crew to upkeep and maintain it. There are many crew members aboard from pilots to flight attendants and journalists to important government officials.
The Secret Service is also on board to make sure nothing can happen to the president along with plenty of other security personnel. The aircraft can seat up to 100 people but never usually exceeds that number. The large crew works together to ensure the flight goes smoothly and that everything is taken care of during operation.
First Specifically Designed Presidential Plane
Before Air Force One was considered what it is today, presidents would fly on presidential planes not specifically designed for that use. It wasn't until 1962 that President John F. Kennedy's administration was the first to build a specifically designed presidential plane.
The plane that was turned into Air Force One was a modified civilian Boeing 707 that remained in service until 1998. This plane was used to bring Kennedy's body back to Washington, D.C. after he was assassinated. The plane is on display today at the Presidential Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton Ohio.
Protective Press Pool
The Protective Press Pool is a group of journalists that travel with the president and report on presidential information. The pool was created due to security reasons and there was not enough space to have unlimited reporters reporting on the president.
These reporters have played critical roles in history by reporting things such as John F. Kennedy's assassination and even Ronald Reagan's attempted assassination. The press has its own cabin aboard Air Force One where they have to stay for most of the flight. The press isn't allowed in certain parts of the aircraft due to security reasons.
A president is an important man and that means there is a lot of security that protects him and makes sure he gets to places alright. Air Force One is protected by military and government officials that guard and secure the areas from which it takes off and lands.
The aircraft usually takes off from military bases because it is a secure area to operate from. There is usually armed personnel on the runway securing the area and even secret service agents aboard the plane. There is a whole plan for every entry and exit from Air Force One to ensure that nothing can go wrong, and if it does, there are plans put in place to handle those situations.
Coors beer is famous throughout the United States, but wasn't always widely available in all states like it is today. It was more widely available in the Western states and the president during the time, Gerald Ford, had a liking for the beer.
Ford was known to smuggle Coors beer onto Air Force One flights whenever he was out in the Western states. He was even known to travel out West on his personal time just to stock up on beer and bring it back to D.C. on Air Force One. He would have members of his team smuggle it aboard the plane so that it wasn't so obvious.
During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, broccoli was apparently "banned" from Air Force One flights. Bush never took a liking to broccoli, even saying he hated the vegetable and wouldn't allow it to be served on Air Force One.
Broccoli wasn't technically "banned" from Air Force One but it was never served during his presidency because he detested it. President Bush at a conference said, "I do not like broccoli and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!"
Air Force One Is Expensive
Air Force One is an expensive plane that costs millions of dollars just to operate. The initial cost of the current Air Force One plane is around $660 million and the Air Force helped pay the bill in installments of $140 million.
It is said that it costs around $56,000 an hour just to operate, putting it in the millions when traveling overseas. There are two new Air Force One planes being built by Boeing to be the next installments in the fleet and the deal reached $3.9 billion for construction.
Department Of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security is a federal executive department that is responsible for public protection. They take care of anti-terrorism acts, border and cyber security, and even disaster prevention. The main focus of this department was to secure the United States from terrorist attacks from within due to recent events.
In 2002, George W. Bush approved the proposal that created the Department of Homeland Security on board Air Force One. This decision was in response to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. This is one of many historical decisions that happened on Air Force One.
On Air Force One, the president gets the luxury of picking which tunes get to play during the flight. In between looking after the country and managing many things, the presidents get a nice way to entertain themselves and relax for a little.
Bill Clinton was especially known for playing jazz music at high volumes, some would say even too high. Clinton was known to have hearing issues so, therefore, he liked the music at higher volumes so he could hear. He would also bring his saxophone on Air Force One and play along with the music.
Miles Of Wire Run Through The Plane
Air Force One is one of the most advanced aircraft that comes with many electronics and new-age technologies. All of this can't be powered without immense wiring that is installed throughout the entire body of the plane.
Inside the body of the plane runs 240 miles of wire that powers everything from computers to phones and everything in between. The installation of all this wiring must have taken a good amount of work.
The lucky guests that get invited to fly on Air Force One get their own guest section within the plane. It is the front-most seated section in the plane due to security reasons, and guests are permitted to only move freely towards the rear while in flight.
They are not allowed to move forward past their seats because the secret service takes their security very seriously. The guest section is stocked with plenty of amenities and room to conversate and work. The president will sometimes make his way to the guest section and talk to guests while on the flight.
Roosevelt's Sacred Crow
The Sacred Crow was a VC-54C aircraft that was president Roosevelt's presidential transport. This plane was used over the C-87A which proved unimpressive to the secret service. This aircraft had a sleeping compartment, a radiotelephone, and an elevator to lift President Roosevelt onto the plane.
The Sacred Crow was only used once by Roosevelt before he passed away, but Harry Truman used it when he took the presidency. Truman was said to have signed the National Security Act of 1947 on the Sacred Crow.
Truman's Independence Plane
The Sacred Crow didn't get used under Harry Truman very long, he instead converted an aircraft for his own needs. The base of the aircraft was a DC-6 converted to a custom version called the VC-118, also known as the Independence. The name was in recognition of President Truman's hometown.
The Independence had a stateroom for the president as well as a large cabin that was able to seat 24 people or convert into 12 beds. The VC-118 had many technical improvements over its predecessors, having a larger fuel tank, autopilot, and even radar. This aircraft served the administration until 1953 and is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio.
First Plane Designated As Air Force One
When Eisenhower was president, a customized Lockheed C-121 Constellation was used as his presidential transport. This aircraft was known as the Columbine II which was the first presidential aircraft to be designated as Air Force One.
It entered service in 1953 and only lasted a year before Eisenhower upgraded to a Super Constellation that was named Columbine III. This was the last piston-engine presidential aircraft that was used before moving on to the jet age under Eisenhower. The new aircraft was the Boeing 707 Statoliner customized to the president's specs, this was the first jet engine presidential aircraft.
Jimmy Carter On Air Force One
Jimmy Carter was the 39th president of the United States that served from 1977 to 1981. Carter was known to have a "lean and tight" budget within his administration and with no doubt, this affected Air Force One.
During his administration, all of the free gifts that were given to guests and crew on Air Force One were never supplied. This was because Carter wouldn't accept anything from a private company to be stocked on board Air Force One. Master Sergeant Charlie Palmer who was the Chief Steward recalls in a documentary saying that there were no bells and whistles on the aircraft and that everything was "bare bones.”
Most Frequent Flyer On Air Force One
President Ronald Reagan served the presidential term two times and within that time he logged the most miles onboard an Air Force One aircraft. Reagan logged more than 675,000 miles and made more than 40 official trips across the world during his presidency.
The aircraft that was used by Reagan was the VC-137C SAM 27000 and it was retired in 2001. When it was retired in 2001, George W. Bush said some remarks about the plane: “My father flew it frequently, but the President who used it the most was Ronald Reagan. It was from this plane that President Reagan disembarked in Berlin in 1987, and demanded, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' And none of those flights would have been possible without the skill and commitment of the aircrews of the old 27000.”
Clinton's Haircut On Air Force One
Bill Clinton was always known for his somewhat appalling acts and in 1993 he was criticized for what he did aboard Air Force One. Clinton was on the runway at LAX getting a haircut aboard Air Force One and made the entire airport wait until he was finished before taking off.
LAX is one of the country's busiest airports and it caused many issues because of how many flights had to stay grounded or in the air. Air Force One sat there with its engines running waiting for the president's hair to be perfectly cut before resuming its operations.
Ronald Reagan was the 40th president of the United States and whenever he was on Air Force One he required there to be Jelly Beans on every flight. Reagan was such a big fan of the candy that he was always seen eating them wherever he went.
During both of his terms as president, Reagan had a jar of Jelly Beans in both the White House and aboard Air Force One. A big reason why Jelly Beans were a favorite of his was that Reagan quit smoking cigarettes and it was a way for him to forget about smoking.
Air Force Two
Everybody knows about Air Force One, but not many know that there is also an Air Force Two as well. The Air Force Two aircraft is meant for the vice president but it is sometimes used by the president as well.
The aircraft is a C-32A, which is a military-converted version of the Boeing 757 commercial airliner. This plane is usually used for its short runway capabilities compared to Air Force One. Although not as fuel efficient as Air Force One, this plane can fly 5,500 nautical miles without refueling.
Secret Evacuation Plane
The president has many plans to evacuate if there is ever an emergency and he has a secret plane that is used in case things go wrong. The aircraft is a Gulfstream C-20C and it's a twin-engine, turbofan aircraft that is used to evacuate the president and high-ranking personnel.
The Gulfstream is not widely known and can not even be found on the Air Force's website, making it top secret. The plane was once used to bring President Clinton into Pakistan while another aircraft followed behind as a decoy under the callsign Air Force One, to ensure the safety of the president.
Special Air Mission 41
George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States passed away in 2018, his body was carried aboard Air Force One to be taken to D.C. and then his resting place in Texas. The airplane wasn't designated as Air Force One because the president didn't fly on it at that time.
It was given the callsign "Special Mission 41" to commemorate the passing of President Bush. The final resting place of George was in Texas at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station.