Air Force One is the official call sign for the aircraft that carries the President of the United States. The first iteration of Air Force One came about in 1943 when the U.S. Army Air Forces made clear their concern about having the President of the United States travel aboard commercial airlines. In the years ever since, Air Force One has become an intrinsic part of pop-culture and America at large. Despite how public Air Force One has been since its inception, we are going to delve into a few fascinating top-secret Air Force One facts that you probably did not learn about in school!
‘Air Force One’ Isn’t Even A Plane – It’s A Call Sign
If you have ever heard of Air Force One, you might be left thinking that the name refers to a physical plane. While this is kind of true, it isn’t technically correct. Air Force One was introduced as a radio call sign for any plane upon which the President of the United States is traveling. So when you hear ‘Air Force One’, remember to pull out this fun little fact!
Boeing Produced the Current AF1 Planes
Did you know that the current crop of Air Force One planes was designed and built by the team at Boeing? That’s true! The two planes currently in rotation for the President are based on Boeing 747-200 aircraft models. The Boeing 747-200 carries four engines which marks a significant upgrade when compared to its predecessor, the Boeing 707. If you are going to be flying around on State business, you might as well have the best of the best!
AF1 Will Occasionally Be Accompanied By a Doomsday Plane
Now, we don’t mean to alarm you, but Air Force One is routinely accompanied by a vehicle known as the Doomsday Plane. This remarkable aircraft was created for the sole purpose of keeping the President of the United States off of the ground in event of a catastrophic meteor strike or (more likely) nuclear warfare. The Doomsday Plane can reportedly stay aloft for multiple days at a time while sporting the ability to even outpace a nuclear explosion.
There are TWO Kitchens Aboard Air Force One
We’ll get more into the size of Air Force One soon, but first, we need to highlight the two enormous kitchens onboard. As it turns out, when you are carrying dignitaries around the country, they still expect to eat like they are at home. Air Force One has a pair of huge kitchens that are brimming with food specifically selected to cater to the President and his entourage. With President Trump in the Oval Office, we imagine that this means the refrigerator is stocked with McDonald’s. Who knew the POTUS was just like us?
A Doctor Is ALWAYS Aboard Air Force One
A recurring theme when it comes to Air Force One is preparation. Flying the Leader of the Free World around means shoring against all potential outcomes. What does this mean? Well, it means that AF1 always has a qualified doctor on board in case of medical emergencies. We’ll delve more into the medical suite aboard the Air Force One crafts later on in our discussion. Just know that if you are going to experience health complications, it doesn’t hurt to be aboard AF1.
Air Force One Has a Mobile Command Center
When the President flies on Air Force One, he typically isn’t going to be catching up on lost sleep. Instead, the President will likely spend much of his time in the mobile command center aboard the craft. This command center offers advanced technology to allow the White House to seamlessly communicate with the plane while it is in the air. The President must always be at the ready!
Replacement Plans Are Already Being Put In Motion
While the two planes that currently comprise Air Force One are at the top end of industry standards, they aren’t going to last forever. Currently, plans are being put in place to swap out the current crop of Air Force One jets for new models in 2024. In order to accomplish this swap, taxpayers will be footing the bill for Boeing’s $3.8 billion production cost.
The Plane Has Its Own Hospital
Back to the medical suite for a little more information. Both Air Force One jets possess small fully-equipped hospital cabins where medical emergencies can be taken care of. There is a full operating room as well as a pharmacy to ensure that the President and his staff are always well taken care of. Additionally, a refrigerator on board will always be stocked with a reserve of blood that matches the blood type of the POTUS.
Current Air Force One Models Can Reach 600 MPH
When the President of the United States has to get somewhere, he’ll likely want to get there quickly. Air Force One has a registered top speed of 600 miles per hour which puts the aircraft right in sight of the actual speed of sound. Air Force One can also reach an altitude of 45,100 feet while in operation, a marker that far outpaces the commercial flight altitude of 30,000 feet. Didn’t we say that Air Force One was one of the most impressive models in the industry
FDR Was the First President to Fly on Official Business
While Air Force One has come a long way over the years, it wouldn’t be where it is without Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was the first President to ever fly on official state business, a feat he accomplished in 1933 aboard a Douglas Dolphin Seaplane. FDR would fly in the plane to Casablanca, Morocco, in order to meet with Winston Churchill regarding strategies for the war. In order to make this long trip, FDR was forced to make several stops while hopping from the Caribbean to Brazil to Gambia before making his way to Morocco. We already feel jetlagged just thinking about it.
Flying Fortress of the U.S.
Flying aboard Air Force One is probably as safe of an aerial experience as you could possibly have. Air Force One is stocked with security metrics that would make your jaw drop. From the plane’s body, which can withstand a nuclear explosion, to the armored windows, you will never have to worry about being shot down. Additionally, AF1 has flares that confuse missiles as well as an electronic defense system that can jam radars.
Air Force One Is MASSIVE
Air Force One is not a small vessel by any stretch of the imagination. After looking at all of the accessories and rooms that we’ve already touched upon, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that AF1 is a massive vehicle. In truth, the current Air Force One model has three floors and more than 4,000 sq/feet of space on the floor. The President, as well as his entourage, will have plenty of room to stretch their legs.
‘Air Force One’ Was Selected To Avoid Confusion
Air Force One was designated as a call sign in the 50s to help differentiate the President’s vehicle from other Air Force vehicles in the sky. The incident that inspired the name change revolved around Eastern Air Lines Flight 8610, otherwise known as Air Force 8610. The new naming convention was immediately adopted to ensure that such confusions were never commonplace again.
George W. Bush Introduced ‘Navy One’
George W. Bush was a lot of things during his time in the White House, but ‘restrained’ was not one of them. George Bush briefly introduced the world to the idea of Navy One, a seafaring companion to the aerial work being done aboard Air Force One. The idea wouldn’t have much for legs, however, so we can’t really say that this concept deserves a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.
There Are Multiple Air Force One Planes
By this point in time, you should have realized that Air Force One actually refers to multiple planes. In fact, the call sign really refers to any plane that the President is on board. With that being said, the current fleet of Air Force One vehicles comprises just two jets, both of which were sourced from the team at Boeing. The point of having two planes is to ensure that a backup is always ready in case of an emergency.
Air Force One Has a Specialized Crew
Working in and around the President of the United States is a serious job. As a result, the White House works diligently to ensure that all Air Force Personnel aboard Air Force One have been heavily screened before gaining admittance to the craft. With such rigorous standards in place, getting a job aboard Air Force One can be considered a great honor. We can’t even imagine what the interview process would be like!
Surveillance Cameras Are EVERYWHERE
As we’ve already stated, Air Force One is crawling with advanced technology. In order to stay aware of the environment, Air Force One even has high-tech surveillance cameras installed into the wheel wells of the plane. These cameras are so strong that they can identify license plate numbers of vehicles driving on the earth below. We have to figure that the entire plane is covered in surveillance cameras by this point.
There Is An Air Force One Chopper
The President doesn’t always have to fly in an airplane, sometimes he will end up taking a helicopter, instead. Welcome to Marine One, the official call sign for the helicopter that the Marine Corps uses to transport the President of the United States. Lockheed was responsible for crafting the six helicopters that comprise the current crop at Marine One.
World Leaders Are Fawned Over Aboard AF1
When you have the most important people on the planet aboard your craft, you are probably going to want to make them comfortable. President Reagan famously requested that Air Force One be fully stocked with his favorite candy, jelly beans, and you can bet that they obliged! In fact, the service team aboard AF1 will go through great lengths to make everything perfect for the POTUS and his team.
Air Force One Never Sits at a Terminal
If you’ve ever seen the President board or depart from Air Force One, you’ll notice that the vehicle is never sitting at a terminal. Air Force One has priority over every airplane in the sky at all commercial airports, so the plane will sit on the tarmac instead. While Air Force One is on the ground, all air traffic surrounding the airport is grounded.
FDR Can Be Thanked For the Presidential Pilot Office
After FDR enjoyed his first flight aboard Air Force One, the President put the Presidential Pilot Office in place. Nowadays, the Presidential Pilot Office is referred to as the Presidential Airlift Group. This group works in an official capacity for the White House’s military office as they are charged with maintaining and operating Air Force One. The entire craft is hand-polished before every departure by this group.
The Vessel Is Brimming With Secured Phone Lines
Communication is the name of the game when the President and his staff are aboard Air Force One. In fact, Air Force One is outfitted with 85 secured phone lines that are only beaten in security by the actual White House. The Executive Phone aboard Air Force One is the ultimate phone for when the President of the United States needs to make contact with anyone. There are also 20 televisions on the plane, though we have to assume that they are all playing the same channel while President Trump is in flight. We’ll leave that channel up to your imagination.
AF1 Costs Taxpayers Every Single Flight
If you think that Air Force One is a pretty impressive vehicle then congratulations, you are complimenting yourself! Air Force One is built, maintained, and fueled by taxpayer money. In fact, every single time that Air Force One takes off the ground, American taxpayers are handed a bill for $206k. Whether the President is flying to a warzone or Mar A Lago for another round of golf, you are going to be footing the bill.
The Plane Is Meticulously Cared For
We’ve already touched on the elaborate safety measures that Air Force One has in place, so now let’s look at the actual condition of the plane. Air Force One is meticulously cared for by the team at the Presidential Pilot Office that we had mentioned above. This group polishes the plane, inspects the fuel, and combs over the entire vehicle before greenlighting it for flight once again. When the President doesn’t need his fleet of jets, they sit at the Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington D.C.
The President Travels With a Media Entourage
Every single time that the President takes flight on Air Force One, he is going to be joined by an entourage of media members, aides, advisers, speechwriters, and security personnel. Typically, the President will travel with roughly 13 media members which are grouped together under the umbrella term, “Protective Press Pool”. These media members have to pay their own way while sharing everything they cover with the White House press.
President Ford May Have Bootlegged Beer
The prohibition of alcohol was not a popular proposition, as is no doubt evident by this point in time. With that being said, President Gerald R. Ford may have done a little bit of bootlegging himself. At the time, Coors wasn’t a widely available beverage, so Ford had his crew load several cases onto Air Force One to be hauled back to Washington after a trip to Colorado.
Air Force One Can Be Refueled While Airborne
If you’ve ever seen an action movie that takes place in the sky, you’ll have probably seen mid-air refueling sequences. While this may seem like a Hollywood concept, mid-air refueling is actually a real thing! In fact, Air Force One can constantly be refueled while in the air, thus allowing the President to stay off of the ground as long as necessary.
Every Flight Is Considered a Military Operation
When the President of the United States takes flight, the entire process is considered a joint military operation. The Air Force undertakes the President’s flying accommodations, thus meaning that every flight falls into their purview as a military operation. Whether the President is heading to Camp David or a meeting with foreign leaders, the Air Force treats it all the same.
Up To 70 Passengers Can Fly At Once
We mentioned several times that Air Force One was a palatial vehicle and now you know the hard stats. The President never has to fly alone, nor does he have to leave people behind. Air Force One can set up to 70 people with the majority of that group being comprised of advisers, Secret Service, reporters, and senior officials.
LBJ Was Sworn Into Office Aboard Air Force One
One of the most famous photos in American history was taken aboard Air Force One. Shortly after the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office aboard Air Force One as the 36th President of the United States. Sarah Hughes, a Judge from Dallas, presided over the affair while a devastated Jackie Kennedy watched on.
Jackie Kennedy Assisted in Redesigning Air Force One
Speaking of Jackie Kennedy, the former First Lady of the United States can be thanked for several design options put in place aboard Air Force One. Jackie Kennedy commissioned Raymond Loewy to create a custom interior for Air Force One. Jackie was personally involved in the blue exterior that we now accept as the norm for Air Force One.
Air Force One Is A Verified Nuclear Bunker
There probably is never going to be a ‘good’ time to engage in a nuclear war. With that being said, you could take shelter in worse places than Air Force One. Air Force One is a verified aerial fortress as well as a nuclear bunker. The plane itself has been developed to withstand the force of a nuclear blast, not that we’d want to test it or anything.
The Vice President Rides on Air Force Two
The Vice President of the United States doesn’t have to ride in coach when they travel. As it turns out, the Vice President gets the honor of flying aboard Air Force Two. Air Force Two is also a call sign to denote any aircraft that the Vice President is currently riding on. These planes feature similar features to Air Force One, though there are some key differences.
President Eisenhower Was the First President to Fly on a Jet
While Franklin Delano Roosevelt owns the distinction of being the first President to fly on state business, President Dwight Eisenhower might have an even more impressive record. As it turns out, Ike would fly on a Boeing 707 Stratoliner in 1959, thus becoming the first President of the United States to travel by Jet.
Air Force One and Air Force Two Had Different Rules
While President Trump claims to not drink, he has the complete ability to do so while flying on Air Force One. The same benefit cannot be extended to Vice President Pence aboard Air Force Two. According to reports, all alcohol is prohibited from being consumed aboard Air Force Two. We’re not sure where or when t his rule came about.
President H.W. Bush Banned Broccoli From AF1
While President Reagan was requesting an unending supply of candy on his flight, it was President George H.W. Bush who was really going against the healthy grain. President George H.W. Bush was apparently one of the biggest anti-broccoli people on the planet. The former President would end up banning the vegetable from use while he was on the plane.
Air Force One Features 240 Miles of Wire
In order to operate all of the various electrical devices on Air Force One, engineers had to lay down more than 240 MILES of electrical wire throughout the craft. Yes, you read that correctly. What other electrical devices are being used that we will never get to learn about? In any event, that is a heckuva lot of wire.
The Presidential Limo Rides in Back
Well, not exactly. As it turns out, every time that the President takes flight, his private limousine follows behind him. While the Presidential Limo doesn’t fly on Air Force One, it leads the way in a separate C-141 Starlifter Cargo Plane. When the President arrives, his limo will be waiting for him. How cool is that?
There Was a Less Famous Predecessor to Air Force One
Air Force One wasn’t the first iteration of the President’s private fleet. Before the Air Force One call-sign was invented, President’s would name the planes that they flew in. President Roosevelt, for example, named his Douglas VC-54 C airplane, ‘The Sacred Cow’. Inside of The Sacred Cow you would find a private elevator that was used to lift FDR’s wheelchair.
Air Force One Has Highly Guarded Fuel
One of the easiest ways to tamper with a vehicle is to alter its fuel supply. If you were a person with bad intentions looking to harm the President, it makes sense that you would go after the fuel source. Well, guess what criminal, you won’t get close! The fuel supply for Air Force One is guarded almost as closely as the President himself.
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