Air Force One

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Air Force One , the aircraft in which the President of the United States is, during a flight in February 2001 over Mount Rushmore , a display of monumental portrait heads of the Presidents George Washington (1st US President), Thomas Jefferson (3rd), Theodore Roosevelt (26th) and Abraham Lincoln (16th).

Air Force One (abbreviated AFO or AF-1 ) is the call sign of the US Air Force (USAF) aircraft in which the President of the United States is currently located.

In common parlance, the term is also used for those aircraft that are specifically intended for the transport of the President and his staff and that have been extensively converted for this purpose. Since 1990 these have been two long-haul versions of the Boeing 747-200B with the USAF designation VC-25A .

It is often mistakenly assumed that every plane the president gets on automatically becomes Air Force One . In fact, the callsign depends on which US armed forces the aircraft used (airplane or helicopter) is. For example, on the way from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base , the home base of the VC-25A , the President uses a Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopter owned by the United States Marine Corps . This is why it has the callsign Marine One . The callsign Army One is also possible and was common until 1976. As soon as the President steps on a US Navy aircraft , it becomes Navy One . If the President is promoted in a civil aircraft, it receives the callsign Executive One . The latter two cases have so far only occurred once; the callsign Coast Guard One has never been.

Current and future aircraft

Current aircraft

The President of the United States has been using a Boeing 747-200B since the 1990s because of its spaciousness and range. The first machine designed for this purpose took off on May 16, 1987 on its maiden flight . It was then specially equipped: The interior adjustments include private quarters for the “first family”, living and working areas for other government members, security officers, staff and representatives of the press ; plus two kitchens and equipment for medical emergencies, including an operating table . In addition to 23 crew members, up to 70 passengers can be carried.

The machines have the most modern communication facilities that are operated from the upper deck. The VC-25A is a complete military base of operations that gives the President full access to the entire military. For this purpose, the President's military advisor is always close by. He has the atomic case (popularly known as football ) with him, with which the use of nuclear weapons can be ordered.

As Air Force One , the VC-25A with the registration number 82-8000 was used for the first time on September 6, 1990, the second machine with the registration number 92-9000 on March 26, 1991.

Typically at the USAF, the first two digits of the license plate number are determined by the budget year in which the aircraft was ordered. The original license plates of the two VC-25A were also 86-8800 and 86-8900, but were then changed to 82-8000 and 92-9000 (also for short: 28000 and 29000) until the VC-25A was put into service. 137C to continue the series of numbers that began with 62-6000 and 72-7000 (26000 and 27000).


On January 9, 2009, the US Air Force officially began looking for a successor to the VC-25A. The purchase of three machines was planned; the first should go into service in 2017. The Boeing 747-8I and the Airbus A380 were considered possible initial models . On January 28, 2009, EADS North America announced that Airbus would not participate in the selection process. One of the suspected reasons for Airbus withdrawing from the prestigious project was the fear of a possible technology transfer to American aircraft manufacturers, as all technical details of the Airbus A380 should have been disclosed to the US authorities for security reasons. On January 28, 2015, the US Air Force announced that it would build the next Air Force One based on the Boeing 747-8.

On January 29, 2016, the Pentagon confirmed a $ 25.8 million contract with Boeing. Boeing should first work out a plan that shows how the machines can meet all requirements within the planned budget. The price of the two new machines was estimated at around $ 4 billion. Donald Trump tweeted 'Cancel Order!' Shortly after his election as US President .

In the fall of 2017, a contract worth 600 million dollars was announced, which provided for the redesign of two parked Boeing 747-8Is of the insolvent Russian airline Transaero Airlines . The plans included a command center, medical center, on-board electrical system, self-defense system, and ground support systems.

Former planes

Richard Nixon in his office aboard Air Force One

Boeing 314

After the transportation of passengers by air had already started in the 1930s, this also became an adequate means of travel for the American President. Franklin D. Roosevelt was initially given a Boeing 314 flying boat (military designation: C-98) to travel to the Casablanca Conference in 1943 . Ships were too dangerous a means of transport in World War II because of the danger posed by German submarines .


As early as 1944, the President received a Consolidated C-87A Liberator Express named Guess where Two for his travels. These planes were converted B-24 bombers. However, after another C-87A crashed for unknown reasons, this type was quickly abandoned , and the Guess where Two was decommissioned.


VC-54C Skymaster Sacred Cow

In 1944 a Douglas C-54 Skymaster named Sacred Cow ( Holy Cow ) was converted into a presidential plane. Among other things, it was equipped with a bedroom, telecommunications facilities and an elevator for Roosevelt's wheelchair.

VC-118 Liftmaster Independence

C-118, VC-118A

When Roosevelt died in the spring of 1945 and Harry S. Truman became president, he had a Douglas C-118 Liftmaster converted for his travels. It was named Independence after Truman's birthplace, Independence , Missouri . This was the first of all presidential aircraft that was also externally changed: the entire aircraft was painted as a stylized bald eagle , the heraldic bird of the United States.

Even John F. Kennedy attacked again in 1960 to a LiftMaster back, however, to have a recent version (VC-118A) to a machine for smaller airfields available to those with its VC-137 could not be landed. This machine is exhibited in the Pima Air & Space Museum near Tucson , Arizona .

Lockheed VC-121E Columbine III


Under President Dwight D. Eisenhower , two more aircraft were purchased for the presidential transport. There were two Lockheed Super Constellation machines . These were named after the official flower of the state of Colorado , Columbine II and Columbine III ( Akelei / Columbine). One of these machines (48-614) is also in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

VC-137A with red paint
VC-137C in old livery
VC-137C in new livery

VC-137A, VC-137B, VC-137C

On May 9, 1959, the first three Boeing 707s were put into service by the Air Force as type VC-137A. These were equipped with J57 turbojet engines and were initially stationed at the 1254th Air Transport Wing . Later these machines received new, more powerful turbofan engines of the type TF33 , making them the type VC-137B, and were transferred to the 89th Airlift Wing . All of these aircraft were intended for general VIP transport, not exclusively for the President.

The hallmarks of these machines were 58-6970 (86970), 58-6971 (86971) and 58-6972 (86972). Two of the machines can be viewed in the Museum of Flight in Seattle , Washington , and in the Pima Air & Space Museum, respectively.

In 1962, the first modified Boeing 707-320B of the type VC-137C was specially converted for the needs of the President. The design used here for the first time (which is still used in principle for the subsequent machines to this day) goes back to a collaboration between the industrial designer Raymond Loewy and John F. Kennedy ; the lettering United States of America is set in Caslon as in the printing of the American Declaration of Independence .

Another machine of the same type was added in 1972 to replace the VC-137C. The two machines (registration numbers 62-6000, also 26000 and 72-7000, also 27000) were also not intended exclusively for the transport of the president; high-ranking cabinet members, senators and congressmen were also used on political trips. The VC-137C No. 26000 was used by President Kennedy for the flight to Dallas on November 22, 1963 (see also: Assassination attempt on John F. Kennedy ). The machine is located (along with other aircraft flown as Air Force One ) in the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio

Each president had the machines modified to suit his taste.

With the introduction of the VC-25A, the 27000 became a reserve machine and, along with two other machines from 1985, was now held at the 89th Airlift Wing for general passenger transport purposes. In 1998 they became the regular C-137C , their last flight as Air Force One under President George W. Bush on August 29, 2001.

The 27000 is a memorial at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley , California.


All Air Force One flights since the 1960s have been operated by the Presidential Airlift Group of the 89th Airlift Wing of Air Mobility Command , based at Andrews Air Force Base , Maryland .

Military equipment

The current Air Force One has military equipment to protect the President. The technical details are top secret. The equipment with five AN / ALQ-204 Matador Infrared Countermeasures (IRCM - one behind each of the four engines and one centered on the horizontal stabilizer ) is proven . This is a system that uses pulsed infrared rays to combat infrared-controlled (heat-seeking) surface-to- air or air-to-air missiles . Each of the jammers has a four to twelve kilowatt infrared source that is used to interfere with or overload the missile's infrared sensor. The aircraft's electronics are also particularly protected against the electromagnetic impulses (EMP) that occur in nuclear weapon explosions by the outer skin (similar to the Boeing E-4 ) and the cabling. The cabling consists of an EMP-insensitive fiber optic network. The option of air refueling increases the range. The fuel tanks hold a total of 53,611 US gallons (202,650 L). However, it is believed that Air Force One has at least two more tanks in addition to the standard tanks of the 747, which would significantly increase the range in an emergency. This would allow US territory to be reached from anywhere on earth without stopping.


If a trip with Air Force One is due, planning begins at least three days in advance in order to comply with US protocol requirements: The armored vehicles of the Secret Service are loaded into freighters and flown to their destination in advance. The VC-25A is loaded, the President's personal steward comes aboard and the machine is cleaned inside and out.

The President's machine is accompanied by a fleet of tankers and cargo planes so that the necessary materials, vehicles and employees can be transported. The Air Force One is usually not of fighter planes accompanied, however, this has happened before, such as on 11 September 2001 .


An hour's flight with an Air Force One cost around $ 180,000 at the beginning of 2017, which led to criticism, among other things, of the frequent use by the new US President Donald Trump at the beginning of his term in office.


President Barack Obama at a meeting aboard Air Force One on April 3, 2009.
  • The callsign Air Force One was reserved in 1953 after an incident in which an Eastern Air Lines civil aircraft with the same sequence of digits in the callsign (EAL8610) as the aircraft of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Air Force 8610) was in the same airspace .
  • In the event that the President is not on board the aircraft, the callsigns of the President's aircraft are Special Air Mission (SAM) 28000 and SAM 29000 (VC-25A). Historical names include SAM 970, 971, 972 , and SAM 26000, 27000 (VC-137).
  • When Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 , he started with the callsign Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base . The moment Gerald Ford took his oath of office and Nixon was no longer president, the callsign was changed to SAM 26000 .
  • Since its inception, the Air Force One designation has been a symbol of presidential power and prestige. SAM 26000 brought November 22, 1963 the body of John F. Kennedy , who during an election campaign trip to Dallas in the US state of Texas in an assassination attempt was murdered, return to Washington. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took his oath of office on board the same aircraft on the same day, making it Air Force One again. Richard Nixon also flew the same aircraft on his historic state visit to the People's Republic of China .
  • Due to a mistake, safety-relevant data about the two current machines were publicly available on the Internet in April 2006. It took a week for the data to be password-protected again. The published data concerned emergency and rescue information that is made available by the Air Force as part of a so-called technical order . The document provides precise information about the type and position of the armament, a detailed description of the three oxygen circuits in the aircraft as well as deck and cabin plans with the locations of the security forces and the various rooms in the aircraft.
  • One of the reasons why the machine is well known is its presence in various media. In addition to the film of the same name , she also appears in the films Iron Man 3 , Independence Day , Superman , The Rattlesnake , 2012 , Big Game - The Hunt Begins and White House Down ; also in computer games ( Perfect Dark , Ghost Squad , Tom Clancy's HAWX , Rainbow Six: Siege ), books, television series and other popular media. The aircraft also appears in the pilot of the successful CBS series Navy CIS .
  • In March 2000, President Bill Clinton flew to Pakistan in a camouflaged Gulfstream III without the aircraft bearing the Air Force One callsign . A few minutes later a Boeing C-17 with the nickname Air Force One without the President on board followed as a diversion on the same route .
  • On Thanksgiving 2003, President flew George W. Bush aboard Air Force One with the use of call signs of a Gulfstream jet for a camouflaged troops visit to Baghdad .
  • In April 2006 the video of an American graffiti artist was published in which he sprayed a day on an Air Force One machine , despite barbed wire and security . It was a PR joke, in which only a rented and faithfully painted Boeing 747 was sprayed.
  • On April 27, 2009, one of the VC-25A flew low over New York City , accompanied by two F-16 fighter jets . The aim of the flight was to take photos for the Pentagon. Although the authorities were informed, the flight caused confusion and concern. Many citizens thought of a repetition of September 11, 2001 . Wall Street's share prices also fell briefly when the plane appeared.

Similar planes

  • Six special versions of the Boeing 757 model are called Air Force Two (C-32A) . They are available to the Vice President and members of Congress.
  • Four Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, a variant of the 747, can be used as airborne command posts by the US Air Force.

Aircraft names based on Air Force One

See also

Web links

Commons : Air Force One  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Air Force One  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Federal Aviation Administration (Ed.): Air Traffic Organization Policy (PDF), p. 78.
  2. USAF starts public search for Air Force One replacement. January 9, 2009, accessed August 24, 2010 .
  3. ^ Boeing Only Contender for New Air Force One. (No longer available online.) January 28, 2009, archived from the original on December 19, 2011 ; accessed on August 24, 2010 .
  5. BBC: Trump says Air Force One Boeing order should be canceled. December 7, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016 .
  6. Boeing builds new Air Force One , accessed February 2, 2016
  7. New York Times: 'Cancel Order!' Donald Trump Attacks Plans for Upgraded Air Force One. December 6, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016 .
  8. Boeing designed for 600 million Air Force One , accessed November 4, 2017
  9. ^ Jacopo Prisco: Out of the blue: A look back at Air Force One's classic design. In: CNN . July 23, 2018, accessed August 6, 2018 .
  10. a b TECHNICAL ORDER 00-105E-9 (PDF; 7.6 MB), p. 65f. Accessed July 25, 2008
  11. The Trumps Millions Trips
  12. ^ Air Force One. At: Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  13. Paul J. Caffera: Air Force One data removed from Web / Site revealed details of security measures on president's jets. ( Memento of March 12, 2012 on the Internet Archive ) In: San Francisco Chronicle. April 11, 2006.
  14. ^ A Visual History of Air Force One . In: Popular Mechanics . May 25, 2016 ( ).
  15. Inside Bush's Top-Secret Trip . In: Washington Post . November 28, 2003, ISSN  0190-8286 ( [accessed July 2, 2019]).
  16. ^ At low altitude over New York. "Air Force One" triggers terror panic. At: April 28, 2009, accessed March 1, 2014.
  17. Canada is looking for a new Can Force One , accessed March 12, 2018