50 Unbelievable Secrets of Air Force One
Air Force One is probably the world's most recognizable plane, and it is a symbol of the presidency and the White House. It is a flying command center that brings the Commander-in-Chief where they need to go in the world. The plane has many bells and whistles, such as a full kitchen, bedrooms, offices, and even a mini hospital. Air Force One is basically a flying fortress for the President of the United States.
Air Force One Isn't Technically The Name Of A Plane
Air Force One isn't the name for one specific plane; it is actually the name for any Air Force aircraft that the president is currently on. If the president is on a civilian aircraft, then that plane is known as Executive One. However, now, it's pretty much accepted to also use Air Force One as the name of the two Boeing 747-200Bs that the president regularly travels on, even when they're not on it.
"The name was adopted in 1953, after a commercial plane, Eastern Air Lines Flight 8610, entered President Eisenhower's airspace when he was on board his plane, which had a similar name, Air Force 8610. After the incident, the term Air Force One was coined to avoid any confusion about which aircraft is carrying the commander-in-chief." ----- Kalbozey.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Was the First To Use The Air Force One Call Sign
Theodore Roosevelt is known as the first flying president since he took a ride in a Wright biplane in 1910 when he flew to a World War II conference. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to use the Air Force One call sign.
There was a story in Popular Mechanics stating that in 1953, a nearby commercial aircraft was using the same "8610" sign as the president's plane. Eisenhower's Air Force One plane wasn't as luxurious as the plane is today as it had a small communications center and only held about sixteen people.
Air Force One Has Offices, A Bedroom, And A Medical Center On Board
Air Force One is pure luxury, and the list of amenities on the plane is endless. The 747 Boeing is four thousand square feet with several levels.
On the plane, there is a large office, bathroom, bedroom, and conference room that is considered an airborne Oval Office. In addition, there is a medical room, a kitchen that can prepare up to two thousand meals on a flight, and so much more.
Communication Is Protected Aboard Air Force One
Air Force One is loaded with electronics, phones, and televisions. The plane has everything the president needs in case of a crisis. All of the electronics on the plane are protected against electromagnetic pulses and hackers.
It also features "advanced secure communications equipment." The public doesn't know exactly what is onboard, but it is everything needed in case of an emergency.
Air Force One Can Be Refueled In Midair
Something that sets Air Force One apart from other commercial planes is that it can be refueled in midair. This gives the plane the impressive ability to stay in the air indefinitely should the need arise.
The plane is refueled by a fuel plane that flies overhead and refills Air Force One through the aircraft's nose. Reportedly, the plane has never made use of the capability while a president has been onboard.
Another Presidential Plane Is Known As The "Flying Pentagon"
There is another plane that is prepared for a much more serious situation. In the 1970s, the U.S. military designed and built four Boeing E-4s as a way to protect the president and other important government officials during the Cold War in case of a nuclear attack.
The plane has the nickname "the Flying Pentagon" and "the Doomsday Plane." The planes feature radiation-proof windows, thermal and nuclear shielding, and countermeasures against direct fire. It also has sixty-seven satellite dishes and always trails Air Force One during overseas trips, just in case.
You Can Pack A Lot Of People Inside Air Force One
Air Force One is used to transport the President of the United States, but it also transports dozens of other people. The plane can carry up to seventy-six passengers.
That typically includes members of the president's staff, security detail, doctors, cooks, and special guests. Journalists are often onboard as well, but news organizations have to reimburse the government for the cost.
Air Force One Is Deceptively Fast
Air Force One is larger than the average-sized plane, and it is able to fly at a top speed of about six hundred mph. It flies almost at the speed of sound.
The plane is so fast that one of the F-16 pilots who escorted Air Force One to Washington on 9/11 recalls having to speed up to catch up with it. Also, the plane flies high, reaching a maximum altitude of more than forty-five thousand feet.
Air Force One Never Parks At A Terminal
You will never see Air Force One parked at an airport terminal, mostly for security reasons. Another reason is that the plane needs to be able to take off at a moment's notice.
Also, it takes too long to taxi in and out of airport hubs. When a plane isn't in use, it is usually parked at Joint Base Andrews, a military facility just outside of Washington, D.C.
It Costs A Fortune To Fly Air Force One
All of the features on Air Force One come with a hefty price tag. The Freedom of Information Act revealed that it costs more than one hundred and twenty thousand dollars an hour to operate Air Force One.
That cost included maintenance, flight consumables, and fuel. The plane has a 53,611-gallon capacity, and the cost increases with the cost of the presidential limo or helicopter trip after landing Air Force One.
The Current Air Force One Planes Will Be Replaced Soon
The two planes used today as Air Force One have been in use since George H.W. Bush was in office in the 1990s. They will be replaced within the next few years, which is estimated to cost more than five billion dollars. It will include two new Boeing 747-8 airplanes that will be heavily modified.
The majority of the details are kept very secret, but the planes aren't estimated to be ready for use until 2024. One detail we do know is that the new planes will be able to travel much further in a single flight than the current planes.
There's A Mobile Command Center
It is important for the president to have a mobile command center at their disposal on Air Force One. The president has everything available to them on Air Force One for any situation.
The plane is equipped with advanced secure communication equipment. The White House has said that if there is an attack on the United States, the president would have everything needed to respond.
There's A Marine One As Well
The president doesn't always fly on an airplane; sometimes, they take a helicopter. Marine One is the name for the Marine Corps helicopter that transports the president. In fact, Lockheed built six new helicopters for Marine One, and the first one entered service in 2020.
The Marine One helicopters are built with ballistic armor and anti-missile defenses. The pilots, known as the Nighthawks, who fly them are from Marine Helicopter Squadron One.
There's Always A Doctor Aboard Air Force One
There is always a doctor onboard Air Force One in case there is a medical emergency aboard. The president's plane includes a medical suite that can also function as an operating room. In the medical suite, you will find a defibrillator, blood supplies, and everything needed to perform emergency first aid onboard.
There is all of the equipment that might be needed in an emergency. They carry an extra reserve of the president’s blood type in a refrigerator, just in case it is needed. In addition, the medical annex includes a well-stocked pharmacy and a wide array of medical tools.
The Planes Will Be Replaced Soon
The two current Air Force One planes have been in operation since 1990, and they are needing updates. However, they are scheduled to be replaced by 2024 by Boeing, which won a $3.9 billion-dollar contract to build the new planes.
Boeing shut down its 747-200 production, which was making it hard to replace the planes' parts. The planes are highly customized Boeing 747-200B jets that were purchased under Ronald Reagan's administration. The new planes were actually ordered during Barack Obama's administration, and they will cost at least three billion dollars.
FDR Established The Presidential Pilot Office
After FDR's historic first flight on Air Force One, he founded the Presidential Pilot Office, which is now known as the Presidential Airlift Group. The Presidential Airlift Group is an official part of the White House Military Office.
It is responsible for maintaining and operating Air Force One. Ever since then, the president has had an Oval Office and a command center.
Air Force One Has Three Floors
Air Force One has three floors and four thousand square feet of floor space. Most Boeing 747s have two levels, but on Air Force One, the president enters on the second level, and members of the press enter on the first floor.
Most of the time, we see the president getting on and off the plane using the door onto the middle deck, using a rolling staircase that is pulled up to the plane.
Air Force One Has 85 Telephones
Air Force One has at least eighty-five telephones onboard, both for classified and unclassified use. In addition, the plane has multi-frequency radios and WiFi.
All of the planes in the Air Force One fleet have plenty of screens and phones on board, with the white phones meant for unclassified use, and the beige phones are secure lines. Another interesting fact is that it takes twenty-six crew members to service Air Force One.
The Crew Knows How To Cater To Dignitaries
The crew onboard Air Force One knows how to cater to dignitaries. They make sure to stock up on the president's favorite food and drinks and they also know how everyone onboard likes their coffee.
There is a video on National Geographic that shows a sign in the galley: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took decaf with cream and Equal on the side, and President Bush took his coffee black with Equal. No need to ask!"
Presidents Said So Long To Prop Planes In 1959
In the first fifteen years of the President Airlift Group, propeller-driven planes served the President of the United States. However, in 1959, the prop planes were discontinued, and along came the Boeing passenger jet.
It started with President Dwight D. Eisenhower using a Boeing 707 Stratoliner in 1959 to fly to Europe, and the rest is history. Back during Theodore Roosevelt's administration, if the president were required to leave the country, he would need to set sail.
JFK Flew In The First Customized Presidential Plane
President John F. Kennedy became the first president in 1963 to use a jet that was built specifically for presidential use after he came into office. He started flying in a modified Boeing 707.
Air Force One is historic for another reason; the plane carried President John F. Kennedy's body back to Washington D.C. after he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. The first lady can also be seen on Air Force One right after the president was killed, with blood all over her dress.
Jackie Kennedy Had Air Force One Redesigned
During John F. Kennedy's administration, First Lady Jackie Kennedy commissioned designer Raymond Loewy to create a new interior for Air Force One. She personally oversaw the redesign of the blue exterior that still makes Air Force One so recognizable today.
The blue color was the brainchild of Jackie and industrial designer Ken Walsh. The author of Air Force One: A History of the Presidents and their Planes, Ken Walsh, said Jackie "felt it was understated but memorable, and President Kennedy agreed."
The Motorcade Travels Ahead Of Air Force One
When the President of the United States flies on Air Force One, the President's bulletproof motorcade is sent ahead of Air Force One in a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane. This ensures that the president will have safe transportation both in the air and once they reach their destination.
The president's motorcade consists of many armored vehicles, a counter-assault team, a USSS Electronic Countermeasures-assault team, and Secret Service agents.
Air Force One Has Two Kitchens
Air Force One actually has two full kitchens, and the food is much better than what the rest of us get when we fly. The majority of the onboard meals are created in a special, safe kitchen at Joint Base Andrews.
They are then vacuum-sealed and frozen, and finally, the crew then cooks or reheats meals onboard the plane. However, one thing that Air Force One kitchens don't have is a fryer.
Air Force One Is Also A Bunker
Air Force One needs to be prepared for any situation; therefore, the president has a nuclear bunker following them at all times. Air Force One is made of tough stuff that also makes it a bunker in the event of a nuclear attack.
The plane's body has armor-plating and armor-plated glass in the windows. The majority of the plane's defense capabilities are kept top secret.
Air Force One Is Larger And Faster Than President Trump's Personal Plane
President Trump has a personal plane that is actually more fancy than Air Force One, but it is smaller and slower. Trump's plane features gold-plated seat belts, custom family crests embroidered into the leather seatbacks, and a movie theater.
However, while he was president, he had to fly on Air Force One because of the official plane's capabilities for defense and security.
Lyndon Johnson Took The Oath Of Office On Board
Just a few hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One. Johnson insisted that Jackie Kennedy be present so that Kennedy supporters would accept his legitimacy as president.
There is a famous photo with Jackie Kennedy at Johnson's side, with JFK's blood still on her clothes and looking dazed. She was asked if she wanted to change first and she said, "Let them see what they have done to him."
The President And Vice President Never Fly Aboard The Same Aircraft
For obvious reasons and security reasons, the president and vice president are not allowed to fly on the same aircraft at the same time. As a result, the vice president flies on Air Force Two, also called the Boeing C-32.
If there were ever a crash with both the president and vice president on board an aircraft, the nation's two most powerful political figures would be lost at once.
Air Force One Has Cameras Onboard
In 1959, they began placing cameras in the aircraft's wheel wells and the cameras were so powerful they could distinguish license plates from almost thirty thousand feet away.
The cameras were courtesy of Secretary of State Allen Dulles. It has also been said that many more cameras have been placed on the underbelly of the plane and inside of the plane as well.
Ford's Administration Smuggled Coors Beer
It used to be that you couldn't buy Coors beer in most eastern states. However, if you were the President of the United States, you could basically get whatever you wanted. President Gerald Ford made sure that he had access to Coors beer whenever he was on Air Force One by having members of his team smuggle it aboard.
They would load up with it and transport it back to Washington, D.C. Dwight D. Eisenhower had shipments of Coors brought in via the Air Force and Henry Kissinger hauled Coors back from trips to California.
George H.W. Bush Said No To Broccoli
President George H.W. Bush was very much against broccoli and he was the first president to impose a ban on broccoli. The chefs were very aware that Bush Sr. hated the vegetable more than most people hated anything.
As a result, he banned it, not only from Air Force One, but also from being served at The White House. Bush stated, "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid. And my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States. And I'm not gonna eat any more broccoli!"
President Reagan Had It Stocked With Jellybeans
All presidents have certain food or drinks that they always wanted to be available. President Reagan's addiction was to jelly beans and he required that there always be a bowl of jelly beans on Air Force One.
During both of his terms as president in the 1980s, Reagan kept jelly beans in a jar in both the Oval Office and in his aerial office on Air Force One.
Bush Approved The Creation Of The Department Of Homeland Security During A Flight
Many historical decisions have been made aboard Air Force One. For example, on a flight to Berlin in 2002, President George W. Bush approved details of a proposal that created the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security was a brand new department of the United States government that still exists to this day. Another example that was mentioned earlier was Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as president aboard Air Force One.
Clinton Used To Blast Jazz Onboard
There are so many crazy amenities on Air Force One, but one of those isn't a DJ. However, President Bill Clinton often made sure to play whatever music he wanted during long flights.
He would usually rock out to jazz music at an extremely high volume because of his hearing issues. Clinton also played the saxophone at the White House celebration of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1993.
The Current Planes Were Made By Boeing
The current Air Force One planes were made by Boeing and are both 747-200 aircraft. They have four engines and are a successor to the Boeing 707, which President Dwight Eisenhower added to the fleet in 1958.
Air Force One was introduced because there were real concerns about using commercial airlines to transport the president. As a result, they ordered the conversion of military aircraft to accommodate the special needs of the commander-in-chief.
Air Force Two Is A Dry Plane
Both Air Force One and Air Force Two have the same amenities and capabilities, with the only difference being the tail codes on each plane. One plane has 2800 on the tail, and the other has 2900 on the tail.
However, Air Force Two does have one crucial difference from Air Force One; it doesn't serve alcohol. As a result, the president can have a bourbon or beer while on his flight, but the vice president can only have non-alcoholic drinks.
Air Force One Needs $12 Million Refrigerators
It has been in the news recently that Air Force One needs new refrigerators, and they each cost about twelve million dollars. It has made a variety of splashy headlines stating that Boeing was awarded the twenty-four million dollar contract to engineer the fridges.
Air Force One has to be able to feed passengers and crew for weeks without resupplying. That requires about three thousand meals stored in huge refrigerators and freezers below the passenger cabin. The two galleys on the plane can actually serve up to one hundred meals at one sitting.
The Planes Have To Be Kept In Near-Perfect Condition
As one would imagine, Air Force One has to be kept in near-perfect condition at all times. This is to reduce "the potential for a devastating accident." The teams of contractors "have to check the fuel that goes into Air Force One's tanks and must keep the aging aircraft in near perfect condition inside and out." ---- Vox.
They are stored at Andrews Air Force Base in a heavily protected hangar under the watch of round-the-clock armed guards when they aren't in use.
Thirteen Members Of The Media Fly On Air Force One
When the president travels on Air Force One, he takes a large entourage with him, which includes a group of senior aides and domestic and economic advisers. It also includes advisers on national security, speechwriters, and others.
There are also usually about thirteen members of the media, known as the protective press pool, representing newspapers, wire services, news sites, radio, and broadcast television. The journalists that travel on Air Force One travel at their news organization's expense, and they are required to share the news they gather with the rest of the White House press corps.
In 1959, It Was Equipped As A Spy Plane
In 1959, when cameras were installed in the plane's wheel wells, the plane was equipped as a spy plane. The Cold War meant all bets were off for American national security, which led to the CIA director, Allen Dulles, turning Air Force One into a spy plane.
The CIA used the planes as top-secret spy planes in a program code-named Operation Lida Rosewith. The program's objective was to spy on Soviet military installations during a trip Eisenhower was supposed to take to the Soviet Union in 1960.
There Is Assigned Seating
Another interesting fact about Air Force One is that there is assigned seating. Every White House administration has its own rules about who can sit where. About half of the seats are reserved for the press pool and Secret Service agents.
The plane has a vast capacity for additional guests besides the president and their aides. Everyone is assigned seating based on their hierarchy in the presidential entourage.
Almost 240 Miles Of Wire Run Through The Plane
Air Force One has more electronics than you would imagine, and because of that, there are almost two hundred and forty miles of wire running throughout the plane.
The wires are for the equipment that is responsible for all of the phones, screens, and communication devices that allow Air Force One to be so intricate and powerful. The president and his team need to be able to broadcast an address to the nation from thirty thousand feet.
Journalists Used To Watch Fargo Onboard
There are almost always a group of journalists on board Air Force One, and reportedly, the movie Fargo was played countless times. During Clinton's bid for reelection in 1996, the press corps and Clinton himself regularly watched the Coen Brothers film.
This led famed presidential journalist Helen Thomas to declare it "the record-holder of Longest Playing Film Aboard Air Force One." It was said that they would watch the film while flying over Fargo, North Dakota.
Clinton Got A Haircut Onboard, Keeping LAX Passengers Waiting
President Bill Clinton was strongly criticized in 1993 because he got a haircut on Air Force One while it sat on the runway. LAX is one of the country's busiest airports, and they had to scramble to make sure their commuter flights didn't land or take off until the President's hair was cut.
Not to mention, the whole time that was all happening, the plane's engine was running. Two of LAX's runways were shut down for nearly an hour that day.
Air Force One has two entrances, with journalists boarding the plane in the rear entrance, and the president, his family, and special guests boarding the plane in the front entrance, near the nose of the plane.
The rule is that invited guests and media are not allowed to walk past the seats of the president, his family, and special guests that are located toward the front of the plane. The entrance that you see the president use is never to be used by anyone other than senior officials.
The Presidential Suite
Air Force One has a Presidential Suite, located at the nose of the plane. The area has foldable couches and a private bathroom, and the southwestern décor theme seen was designed by Nancy Reagan.
The suite also features a small gym and behind the suite is the president's Oval Office in the sky. It has a large desk and room for the president to chat with their advisors and special guests in private.
Fine Dining On Air Force One
Air Force One serves elaborate meals that are prepared inside a special kitchen at Joint Base Andrews. The meals are vacuum sealed and frozen, and then when in the air, the food is cooked on stoves, ovens, and microwaves.
The president can order basically whatever meal they would like as there are dedicated chefs that prepare a unique menu for each flight. They aim to please the palate of the president and everyone else on board. It is definitely different than the meals passengers receive on commercial flights.
Air Force One (Film)
In 1997, the film Air Force One was released, starring Harrison Ford as the President of the United States. It is based on the real Air Force One aircraft, and the film's plot is about the president flying on the aircraft when the plane gets hijacked.
The film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen and also stars Glenn Close, Gary Oldman, Wendy Crewson, and William H. Macy. President Bill Clinton saw the film twice and gave it good reviews but said that some of the features in the film aren't really featured on the real Air Force One. The film was highly-rated and was number one at the box office when it was released.
Apparently, The "Doomsday Plane" Was Actually In Use During 9/11
Something that most people don't know is that an aircraft resembling the Doomsday Plane might have flown over the White House on September 11, 2001. It was the day of the terrorist attacks in New York City. It has never been confirmed, but several news organizations and civilian bystanders reported seeing the White House plane that day.
The plane is called the "National Airborne Operations Center" when it is called into action. However, the government will not discuss anything about the Doomsday Plane, so they will never confirm nor deny the 9/11 sightings.