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What Makes Air Force One Special?

  • by: Jonathan Hall
  • On: 22, Oct 2018
3 min read

What is Air Force One?

Air Force One is the modified plane flown in by the President of the United States of America. It has been featured in countless films and TV shows and is intrinsically linked to the concept of governmental power and absolute safety for the US President. Weighing 800,000 pounds, the plane is stocked with everything you would expect the president might need, as well as several high-tech surprises you wouldn’t find on a normal commercial aircraft.

What Makes Air Force One Special?

1. Unique Status

Considered by many to be a kind of flying fortress, the title of Air Force One is actually given to any air force-piloted plane that is carrying the president. The current model designated Air Force One is a modified Boeing VC-25A. The name ‘Air Force One’ was established after an incident in 1953, when an Eastern Airlines flight with the same designation crossed paths with the president's plane, then called Air Force 8610, although the Air Force One name was not made official until 1962. In service since 1990, the current Air Force One model has carried five different presidents.

2. Luxury Rooms and Facilities

The "flying Oval Office" has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space. Among its accommodations are:

  • Conference/dining room
  • Quarters for the US President and the First Lady, including a bathroom and gym
  • An office area for senior staff members
  • Another office that converts into a medical facility when necessary
  • Work and rest areas for the presidential staff, media representatives and Air Force crews
  • Two galleys that can provide 100 meals at one sitting
  • Multi-frequency radios for air-to-air, air-to-ground and satellite communications

3. Unrivalled Travelling Ability

With a full tank of 53,611 gallons of fuel, Air Force One can fly halfway around the world. The state-of-the-art communications are set up to ensure connectivity at all times, for the passing of information and intelligence. The plane is fitted with 238 miles of wiring to power 85 telephones, 19 televisions and countless radios. It costs around $56,000 an hour to operate.

4. Tailored Protection for the US President

The medical facility has an operating table and is equipped for a wide variety of emergencies. A supply of the sitting president’s blood type is kept on the plane at all times. Beyond that, it also has a suite of technological and aerial combat capabilities, including anti-missile defences.

5. Cutting Edge Technology

A new model is slated to be the next Air Force One: the Boeing 747-8. Although it won’t be ready for some time, it is being fitted with advanced shielding to protect it from an electro-magnetic pulse that would accompany a nuclear strike. This, as well as other upgrades, are set to cost around $3.7 billion. Recent new refrigerators for the current plane cost $24 million and are now able to hold 3,000 meals.

6. Flight Speed and Ability

Every flight is considered a military operation, with the possibility that attack could come at any moment. Jammers and anti-missile defences give the plane enhanced security. The plane can refuel in mid-air, allowing it to stay airborne in the event of an emergency.

It can also fly faster and higher than any commercial plane. The plane can reach heights of 45,000 feet, whereas commercial planes usually travel at 30,000. During 9/11, when the government weren’t sure if an attack on the president was imminent, the plane climbed to 45,000 feet and stayed there for some time to avoid detection. It can reach speeds of 600 mph, almost the speed of sound. On that same flight, F1 fighter pilots accompanying the plane had to ask the pilot to slow down, as they couldn’t keep up with it.

Air Force One is one of the most advanced, highly specialised planes in the world. As technology improves, it is likely more and more upgrades will be fitted to the plane, keeping it at the cutting-edge.

Read more about the latest Aviation technology, or learn why 2017 was the safest year on record for air travel.

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