US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will arrive in India in a highly customised Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, called “Air Force One”. The White House on its website says that technically, Air Force One is used to describe any Air Force aircraft carrying the President, but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the American Commander-in-Chief. Today, this name refers to one of the two Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000. The US Air Force’s designation for the aircraft is VC-25A.
The White House says the US President must be ready to travel anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. Air Force One is one of the most recognisable symbols of the American 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.
In 1962, President John F Kennedy became the first President to fly in a jet specifically built for presidential use – 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 HW Bush.
Capabilities of the aircraft
It can refuel in midair, unlike regular Boeing passenger aircraft. The Air Force One has “unlimited range” and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel, says the White House on its website. The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse. The plane also has advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command centre in the event of an attack on the US.
Inside Air Force One
The “flying Oval Office” has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space, Boeing says. The President and his travel companions have space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, toilet, 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 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 15 years, various propeller-driven aircraft served the President, until President Dwight D Eisenhower flew to Europe aboard VC-137A, a Boeing 707 Stratoliner, in August 1959.
Future of Air Force One
The US Air Force has announced that it will continue the Boeing tradition with the 747-8, which will replace the two 747-200s that serve as the presidential Air Force One fleet. When the 747-8 takes flight as the next Air Force One, Boeing airplanes will mark more than half a century of presidential service through the Jet Age.