No matter where in the world the President travels, if he flies in an Air Force jet, the plane is called Air Force One. Technically, Air Force One is the call sign of any Air Force aircraft carrying the President. In practice, however, Air Force One is used to refer to one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000. The Air Force designation for the aircraft is VC-25A.
Air Force One is one of the most recognizable symbols of the presidency, spawning countless references not just in American culture but across the world. Emblazoned with the words “United States of America,” the American flag, and the Seal of the President of the United States, it is an undeniable presence wherever it flies or docks.
Capable of refueling midair, Air Force One has unlimited range and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel. The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and Air Force One is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States.
Inside, the President and his travel companions enjoy 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. Air Force One includes a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board. The plane’s two food preparation galleys can feed 100 people at a time.
Air Force One also has quarters for those who accompany the President, including senior advisors, Secret Service officers, traveling press, and other guests. Several cargo planes typically fly ahead of Air Force One to provide the President with services needed in remote locations.
Air Force One is maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group, part of the White House Military Office. The Airlift Group was founded in 1944 as the Presidential Pilot Office at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For the next 20 years, various propeller driven aircraft served the President. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy became the first President to fly in his own jet aircraft, a modified Boeing 707. Over the years, several other jet aircraft have been used, with the first of the current aircraft being delivered in 1990 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.
Crew : 26 (passenger/crew capacity: 102)
Model : 747-200B
Engines : General Electric CF6-80C2B1
Thrust rating : 56,700 pounds, each engine
Long-range mission takeoff gross weight : 833,000 pounds
Maximum zero fuel weight : 526,500 pounds
Design mission zero fuel weight : 46,000 pounds
Maximum landing weight : 630,000 pounds
Fuel capacity : 53,611 gallons
Range : 7,800 statute miles
Wing span : 195 feet, 8 inches
Length : 231 feet, 10 inches
Height : 63 feet, 5 inches
Service ceiling : 45,100 feet.
VC-25 – AIR FORCE ONE
Mission The mission of the VC-25 aircraft — Air Force One — is to provide air transport for the president of the United States.
Features The presidential air transport fleet consists of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B’s — tail numbers 28000 and 29000 — with the Air Force designation VC-25. When the president is aboard either aircraft, or any Air Force aircraft, the radio call sign is “Air Force One.”
Principal differences between the VC-25 and the standard Boeing 747, other than the number of passengers carried, are the state of the art navigation, electronic and communications equipment, its interior configuration and furnishings, self-contained baggage loader, front and aft air-stairs, and the capability for in-flight refueling.
Accommodations for the president include an executive suite consisting of a stateroom (with dressing room, lavatory and shower) and the president’s office. A conference/dining room is also available for the president, his family and staff. Other separate accommodations are provided for guests, senior staff, Secret Service and security personnel, and the news media.
Two galleys provide up to 100 meals at one sitting. Six passenger lavatories, including disabled access facilities, are provided as well as a rest area and mini-galley for the aircrew. The VC-25 also has a compartment outfitted with medical equipment and supplies for minor medical emergencies. The aircraft is one of a kind.
Background These aircraft are flown by the Presidential Airlift Group, and are assigned to Air Mobility Command’s 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Presidential air transport began in 1944 when a C-54 — the “Sacred Cow” — was put into service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then came the “Independence,” a DC-6 (Liftmaster), which transported President Harry S. Truman during the period 1947 to 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled aboard the “Columbine II” and “Columbine III” from 1953 to 1961. While the call sign “Air Force One” was first used in the 50s, President Kennedy’s VC-137 (Boeing 707) was the first aircraft to be popularly known as “Air Force One.”
In 1962, a C-137C specifically purchased for use as Air Force One, entered into service with the tail number 26000. It is perhaps the most widely known and most historically significant presidential aircraft. Tail number 26000 is the aircraft that carried President Kennedy to Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963, and returned the body to Washington, D.C., following his assassination. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office as the 36th president on board the aircraft at Love Field in Dallas. This fateful aircraft also was used to return President Johnson’s body to Texas following his state funeral Jan. 24, 1973. In 1972 President Richard M. Nixon made historic visits aboard 26000 to the People’s Republic of China and to the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Tail number 26000 was retired May 1998, and is on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Tail number 27000 replaced 26000 and carved its own history when it was used to fly Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter to Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 19, 1981, to represent the United States at the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
The first VC-25A — tail number 28000 — flew as “Air Force One” on Sept. 6, 1990, when it transported President George Bush to Kansas, Florida and back to Washington, D.C. A second VC-25A, tail number 29000 transported Presidents Clinton, Carter and Bush to Israel for the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The VC-25A will usher presidential travel into the 21st century, upholding the proud tradition and distinction of being known as “Air Force One.”
Primary Function: Presidential air transport
Contractor: Boeing Airplane Co.
Power Plant: Four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 jet engines
Thrust: 56,700 pounds, each engine
Length: 231 feet, 10 inches (70.7 meters)
Height: 63 feet, 5 inches (19.3 meters)
Wingspan: 195 feet, 8 inches (59.6 meters)
Speed: 630 miles per hour (Mach 0.92)
Ceiling: 45,100 feet (13,746 meters)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 833,000 pounds (374,850 kilograms)
Range: 7,800 statute miles (6,800 nautical miles) (12,550 kilometers)
Crew: 26 (passenger/crew capacity: 102)
Introduction Date: Dec. 8, 1990 (No. 28000); Dec. 23, 1990 (No. 29000)
Date Deployed: Sept. 6, 1990 (No. 28000); Mar. 26, 1991 (No. 29000)
Inventory: Active force, 2; ANG, 0; Reserve, 0