Air Force One Revealed

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For decades, Air Force One has been volleying Presidents around the country and the world. So, what kinds of secrets does it hold? Well, for one thing, there’s a lot of planning that goes into every trip the aircraft takes – even short jaunts. That’s because each flight requires several contingency plans. Crew members are highly training and always on alert for something out of the ordinary to happen. So they spend countless hours exploring what-if scenarios.

But it turns out that a flying Air Force One is actually safer than a sitting Air Force One. That’s because the air space around the presidential plane is always secure. And, since the aircraft has been modified to repel airborne missiles and jam enemy radar. On the other hand, parked on the runway opens Air Force One up to all kinds of possibilities – all the more reason for the President’s flight crew to remain vigilant.

But what about those secrets?

No one will ever totally know what the aircraft can do or what deep secrets it holds. But there are some really wild features that the President’s plane has that you won’t find anywhere else. 

Air Force One is a massive flying container of secrets.  There’s still so much we don’t know, but lucky for us, a few presidents have leaked facts about Air Force One that are pretty unbelievable.

Air Force One is so much more than a private jet for the POTUS.  It’s a top secret vault in the sky, and that vault has just been cracked.  Here are some things that nobody knew about Air Force One, until now…

Let’s take a look inside.

How Fast And How High?

Air Force One can fly over 700 miles per hour.  That’s really fast!  It can also fly higher than most commercial planes, at a height of 45,000 feet.  That’s 10,000 feet higher than the normal cruising altitude of any other passenger airliner.  Despite its crazy speed, Air Force One flies very smoothly.

Air Force One Never Has To Touch Ground

This is probably one of the coolest facts about Air Force One.  Air Force One can refuel in the sky.  It never has to touch ground.  If it wanted to, it could fly forever.  It can keep the president in the sky as long as it has to.  Another cool fact: Air Force One has a 3,000 gallon fuel tank.

Air Force One Has Two Restaurants On Board

There are essentially two restaurants aboard Air Force One – well, they’re two massive kitchens that always have food available.  The president and his guests can have anything they desire Air Force one is staffed with top rated chefs, and each kitchen holds up to 100 people.  That’s pretty big!

Phones Are Everywhere

Air Force One has over 85 phones.  But why?  Well, it’s the most secure place the president can talk, even over the White House.  The Airborne Executive Phone has a light on the back that lights up red when secure.  There are dozens of less secure lines aboard for the press and staff that travel with the president.

There Are Super Spy Cameras In The Wheel Wells

In 1959, President Eisenhower instructed Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence at the time, to install cameras in the wheel wells of Air Force One.  These cameras were so powerful that even in 1959 they could read license plates from the sky.  No matter the reason for the installation, you can’t deny how unbelievable that is!  It it continued to be believed by aviation experts that updated sky-to-ground camera tech continues be in use in various locations on the underbelly of the aircraft, including the wheel wells.

Who Are The Frequent Travelers Of Air Force One?

Air Force One is a place for family.  It’s a place to exhale from all the hustle and bustle of the presidential life.  The Secret Service travel with the family, as well as staffers and the journalists who live in a cabin at the very back of the plane.

Air Force One Is Large Enough To Be A House

Air Force One is large enough to be a house.  It has three stories of 4,000 square feet.  The president has his own large office, lavatory, and conference room.

There are private quarters for special guests, and all the furniture is exquisite like it belongs in some exotic mansion.

How Many People Does Air Force One Hold?

Air Force One can hold hundreds of people, but only safely seat 70.  There are living quarters to accommodate more bodies, such as all of the senior advisors, Secret Service officers, reporters and special guests.

Yes, there are usually people without seats.  The central seating area of the plane is reserved for the president and his family.

How Much Does Air Force One Cost To Fly?

The Air Force One costs $206,000 an hour to operate.  That’s staggering compared to the $20,000 an hour it costs for a commercial airline.

President Trump’s traveling costs were $10 million his first month in office. Presidential travel involves hundreds of people and dozens of aircraft.  The costs add up.

Air Force One Is Where Homeland Security Was Birthed

President George W. Bush signed the Department of Homeland Security into existence from onboard a flight on the Air Force One.

It was thousands of feet above Germany that this decision was made immediately following the attacks of September 11th.  This decision has changed the inner-workings of our country forever.

Air Force One Is Nuclear Resistant

Air Force One is pretty much a nuclear-resistant Oval Office.  The plane can withstand a nuclear blast even if on the ground.

It has been put through testing to the equivalent of a nuclear attack.  That’s comforting for sure.  Let’s hope it’s never tried in real time.

What Happens When The President Is Coming To Town?

When the president comes to town, the airport that hosts Air Force One is made aware.  Then, the air space is cleared an hour before the president’s arrival.

When Air Force One lands, it’s self-contained.  No need for outside services.  From there, the president is transferred to Cadillac One aka “The Beast.”

Sick On Air Force One? No Problem

If a passenger aboard the Air Force One gets sick, it’s no problem.  There’s a miniature hospital built into Air Force One, with a doctor staffed at all times.

Air sickness is not an excuse to avoid travel on this well-equipped plane!  And how cool would it be to be known as the “Air Force One doctor?”

Air Force One comes equipped with an emergency room. The medical annex is a fully-stocked, ready-to-go operating room. There’s even a fully stocked pharmacy onboard, too.

Jackie Kennedy Styled Air Force One

Most of the styles seen on Air Force One can be attributed to Jackie Kennedy.  She carpeted it and picked out the china, crystal and silverware.

The USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio still has all of her original furnishings, and Air Force One will always have some of Mrs. Kennedy’s flair.

Air Force One Is An Airborne Command Center

The gear aboard Air Force One is top-notch with superb satellite communications networks and extremely classified defensive measures that not only protect the plane during an attack, but can carry out attacks as well.

Most of us will never know the commands that have been made aboard Air Force One.

Air Force One Is Actually Air Force Three

There are two Air Force Ones, but only one is the real deal.  They fly together so no one knows which one the president is actually on.  “The Gulfstream,” known as the C-20C, is a jet that supposedly trails the other two planes, but the government and the Air Force deny it exists.  Interesting…

Has Its Own “Doomsday Plane”

When it comes to the protection of the sitting POTUS, nothing is left to chance.  For this very reason, Air Force One has its own protection of a sort, in the form of a “Doomsday Plane”, call signl E-4B.  Basically, this plan has Air Force Ones back.  The plane is designed to stay in the air for days and is able to outrun the explosion of a nuclear weapon.  The only function of this aircraft is the protection of Air Force One, and the POTUS, should its unique form of service is required.  The 747 follows the POTUS aircraft everywhere it goes, with the sole purpose of a specialized type of security.

A Massive Flying Fortress

Not only does Air Force one function as a means of travel to and from crucial destinations, but it also serves as a flying fortress to protect and secure the POTUS and any fellow passengers.  Each and every window on the aircraft is armored and resistant to gunfire.  There are flares that can be released from the craft, if needed, that will aid in confusing any enemy missiles.  Finally, as a means to keep down on possible sabotage, both exits from Air Force one has its own retractable staircase, preventing the necessity to depend on airport staircases.

TV’s Abound

Believe it or not, Air Force One has twenty TVs on board.  Each tv is strategically placed throughout the aircraft so that at any given time passengers will be able to view one.  Although it has never been officially said why so many, there are two reasons that this may be.  One would be that with Air Force One being such a massive structure, it would only hold that it would require more TVs than most aircraft.  Second, with press and staff constantly flying with the POTUS, one would assume they would need to keep up to date on broadcasts and reports.  It would only make their jobs that much less stressful.  Plus we are sure that the multitude of TV’s is sure to provide a variety of viewing choices during long and tedious flights.

Showing Its Age

According to a Live Science report, both planes that are currently called signed as Air Force One are actually very highly customized Boeing 747-200B jets.  The currently two planes were purchases under Ronald Reagan’s administration.  However, they didn’t actually go into service until much later, in 1990, under the then-president George H.W. Bush’s administration.  Since the jets were commissioned Boeing has shut down all production on its 747-200 style of the jet.  As a result, it has made finding replacement parts for the plane a very arduous task.  In some cases, spare parts have had to be kulled from jetliners that are parked in the desert.

In With The New

With the increasing problems with finding adequate parts to serve and maintain Air Force One properly, it was decided a new set of planes were needed.  With that in mind, during Barack Obama’s term of office, an order was placed for two replacements for the Air Force One fleet.  The new versions were to built based on the new Boeing 747-8 series.  A newer, better version than the previous styles.  It has been estimated that both planes are looking to run at least $3 billion dollars, and are not expected to even come into service until well into 2024.

Top Of The Line Fridges

Americans were shocked to learn this little tidbit of information recently.  It was reported that Air Force One was in need of new refrigerators.  Oh, but not just any refrigerators—but ones that cost a whopping twelve million dollars—each.  With the needed replacements, Boeing was awarded the contract to do the actual engineering of the fridges.  The reason stated for the need for such costly equipment is simply that Air Force One has to have the ability to feed passengers, and crew, for weeks on end without having to resupply.  This means each fridge has to be able to store up to three thousand meals at any given time.

Must Be Maintained To Perfection

Because of Air Force One’s particular function, it must be kept in as close to perfect condition at all times.  This is to reduce the potential for any type of devastating accident.  The team of contractors that are assigned to maintain the plane has a very strict set of protocols to maintain.  Other than keeping the aircraft in pristine condition, both inside and out, the contractors are charged with checking every inch of the plane, even down to the fuel that goes into its tanks.  When not in use, the planes are under heavily armed, round the clock guard, in a hangar at Andrews Air Force Base just outside of DC.

Hard On The Pocket Book

Because of its sheer size, Air Force One is pretty costly to run.  It has been reported that for the 2016 fiscal year alone, the cost to operate Air Force One in the air was a staggering $180,000 an hour.  Because of this massive cost, lawmakers have been calling the presidents to task on what is seen as the unnecessary, even referred to as frivolous and partisan, outings of the aircraft.  However, it should be noted that these squabbles over what is deemed unnecessary uses of the aircraft are in no way new.  And to be honest, will continue to happen with each new president.

Press In Tow

It is pretty much common knowledge that when the POTUS travels he has somewhat of a large entourage.  Those included are senior aides, national security, domestic, and economic advisors.  It is also well known that the POTUS travels with press members on board as well.  Those on board, totaling thirteen in all,  are handpicked by the POTUS administration as the “eyes and ears” of the people.  They are there, on their news organization’s expense, to cover all the details surrounding the POTUS trips.  There represent all wings of the media, including wire services, newspapers, news site, broadcast television, and radio.

The Beast 

The presidential limo nicknamed the ‘Beast’, goes everywhere the president goes—without exception.  The reason for this is that the Secret Service will be better able to maintain the safety of the POTUS during vehicular transport.  When the POTUS arrives, the limo is there waiting for him when he lands at his destination, to carry him to wherever he needs.  However, the limo, a Cadillac, does not actually travel with the president.  In actuality, it is sent ahead of the president, transported aboard a military cargo plane. Since it is ahead of the president the limo can be waiting and ready on the tarmac when the president arrives.

A Long History

Contrary to popular belief, Air Force One has been around for many decades.  The patriarch of the Air Force One lineage was spearheaded by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his administration.  He formed the then Presidental Pilot Office, which then in 1944 became the Presidental Airlift Group.  For the following fifteen years, the aircraft that served the president were propeller driven in nature.  It wasn’t until JFK’s administration that a sitting president flew in a jet built expressly for that very purpose.   His aircraft was a modified Boeing 707 jet.  Over the years, a variety of jet aircraft has put into service for the president.

New Planes Are The Norm

The consistent ordering of new planes to serve as Air Force One is not a new concept.  From the first version, every so many administration would put in an order for the newer, faster, shinier model.  The entire Air Force, not just Air Force One, has an ongoing order at one time or another for updated aircraft.  The problems that usually arise are based within the technical requirements the new aircraft need to provide.  Since taking over the acquisition of new aircraft, and the specific requirements each newer version is required to have, the Pentagon is constantly being dogged by one set back or another.  After years of budget battles, the Air Force finally announced it would hire Boeing, the only remaining manufacturer of large aircraft, to deliver future orders of planes needed.

Rules To Follow

Although it is in the POTUS privy of power to order new aircraft to serve as Air Force One, there are specific rules that must be followed.  The purchase must be made within the second term of the sitting president.  The reason for this is so that the aircraft will not be delivered within that president’s term of office, thusly preventing the ordering president to actually use the plane.  The president, in reality, is purchasing the plane for the use of future presidents, not for his own use.   Along with Reagan and Eisenhower, Obama set aside money in his second term to purchase a new Air Force One.

Assigned Seating

Much like a classroom, the seating on Air Force One is not only limited, but it is also very much assigned.  The assigned seating rule is nothing new, as each administration has had its own rules on who can and cannot set where.  The reasoning for this is not really known, but it is something that every sitting president, that has had Air Force One, has participated in.  The seating on Air Force One, which makes up over half of what is available, is reserved for mostly the press pool passengers as well as the Secret Service.  There is a seat for everyone, and everyone has a specific seat.

Cuts The Line

When it comes to who has priority and who doesn’t, there isn’t much discussion when Air Force One is involved.  Air Force One gets priority over anything and anyone else flying—end of story.  Her pilots do not have to worry about how busy the airspace is, because it isn’t.  All airspace is cleared ahead of Air Force One in every flight she makes.  There is also the fact that all air traffic, no matter whom it may be, is halted and grounded until Air Force One has either taken off or landed.  For this very reason, and in order to not disrupt commercial airlines schedules, Air Force One typically lands at military air bases.

Highly Recognized

Because of its very appearance, Air Force One in no way can be mistaken for any other plane.  With its gleaming, hand polished blue, white and silver colored it is truly a sight to behold.  The aircraft is as much a symbol for America as the President that it transports.  It’s supreme stature screams that it’s not only the airplane of the POTUS, by also a flying symbol of America’s superb military and economic might.  Wherever it lands, it does so leaving those watching with a sense of awe.  Upon touchdown, it does nothing less than proclaim the arrival of one of the most powerful individuals in the world.

A Place In History

Air Force One served as a momentous place in history in August 1974, when presidential leadership was turned over.  Following his resignation, then sitting president Richard Nixon boarded Air Force One at Andrews AFB as he headed back home to El Toro, CA.  While onboard the aircraft, at approximately 12 pm EST, the role of president was officially transferred from Nixon to Gerald Ford.  This was one of the most remembered events in presidential history, and it took place onboard Air Force One.  The aircraft was halfway through its transcontinental trip when the callsign was then changed from Air Force One to SAM—Special Air Mission 28000—the official military callsign for the remainder of the flight.

Was Replaced One Time

It is the responsibility of any sitting POTUS to use Air Force One as it is intended—as the only transportation for the president.  However, during the Nixon administration, that basic rule was broken.  In an effort, by Nixon, to demonstrate and send a political-economic message to the people, the POTUS do the unthinkable and traveled via United Airlines.  Even though he was trying to prove and illustrate a point, his fellow representatives in the administration did not see this as a prudent move.  Since he was not traveling in Air Force One, the United Airlines aircraft was given the designation of Executive One.  This was and continues to be the callsign when the sitting POTUS chooses to board a civilian aircraft.

Was Replaced One Time

It is the responsibility of any sitting POTUS to use Air Force One as it is intended—as the only transportation for the president.  However, during the Nixon administration, that basic rule was broken.  In an effort, by Nixon, to demonstrate and send a political-economic message to the people, the POTUS do the unthinkable and traveled via United Airlines.  Even though he was trying to prove and illustrate a point, his fellow representatives in the administration did not see this as a prudent move.  Since he was not traveling in Air Force One, the United Airlines aircraft was given the designation of Executive One.  This was and continues to be the callsign when the sitting POTUS chooses to board a civilian aircraft.

More Information

Air Force One is a formidable flying bunker that probably has all kinds of high-tech, super-cool gadgets, and features that we, the lowly public, will never know. But there are some facts about the President’s bird that we do know. 

Air Force One is completed waxed by hand before the President flies in it. Of course, the engine and other operational devices are checked too. But can you imagine how long it must take to hand wax a Boeing 747? 

“Air Force One” Is Technically A Call Sign

Although we think of Air Force One as referring to the planes themselves, it is technically a radio call name for any plane on which the president of the United States of America travels. So, “Air Force One” is simply the plane flying the president.

The Name Was Established To Avoid Confusion

The “Air Force One” naming convention was established for communication purposes. 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.

There’s Also An Air Force Two

Air Force One isn’t the only official fleet for carrying the important people in our government. Air Force Two is the radio call sign for the plane the vice president is using. Typically, the V.P. flies on a C-32A, a military plane similar to a Boeing 757.

There’s A Marine One, Too

The president doesn’t always fly on airplanes. Sometimes, he takes a helicopter. Marine One is the radio call sign for a Marine Corps helicopter transporting the president. Lockheed is building six new helicopters for Marine One, and the first is expected to enter service in 2020, according to CNBCHelicopters in the Marine One fleet are equipped with ballistic armor and antimissile defenses, and the pilots who fly them, from Marine Helicopter Squadron One, are known as the Nighthawks.

You’ll Never See It At A Terminal

There’s a reason why every picture of the president coming out of the airplane takes place on a set of stairs. The plane never parks at the terminal at an airport. It stays wherever it has landed so that it can take off at a moment’s notice, as needed.

FDR Was The First To Fly For State Business

The Navy purchased a Douglas Dolphin seaplane for the president’s personal use in 1933, but a sitting U.S. president didn’t fly to handle official state business until 1943. That first flight wasn’t a short one. Franklin Delano Roosevelt flew to a war strategy meeting with Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco. Roosevelt’s journey on the Boeing 314 Flying Boat took four days! Departing from Florida, his pilots hopped through the Carribbean to Brazilbefore making the trans-Atlantic flight to Gambia, then flew him north to Morocco.

FDR Established The Presidential Pilot Office

After that historic flight, FDR founded the Presidential Pilot Office, which is now known as the Presidential Airlift Group. This group is an official part of the White House Military office, and it is responsible for maintaining and operating Air Force One. And these planes get plenty of special attention: Air Force One is hand-polished before every flight.

George W. Bush Briefly Had A “Navy One”

Since the “One” designation is for aircraft carrying the president, it’s no surprise that George W. Bush dubbed the plane that landed him on the USS Abraham Lincoln following the invasion of Iraq in 2003 “Navy One.” The Lockheed S-3 Viking was designed to be an anti-submarine jet, not transportation for the president, of course. “Navy One” was retired and is now on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. 


Theodore Roosevelt is known as the “first flying president” after he took a ride in a Wright biplane in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 11, 1910, a year and a half after leaving office. Franklin Delano Roosevelt later became the first sitting president to fly in a plane when traveling overseas to a World War II conference.

The term Air Force One wasn’t used until Dwight D. Eisenhower took office. According to a story told in Popular Mechanics, one possible reason behind the call sign came in 1953, when a nearby commercial aircraft was using the same “8610” sign as the president’s plane, which could have led to a potentially dangerous mishap. Another consideration was that, as Commander-in-Chief of the military, it was important to not only know where the presidential airplane was, but whether the president was on it. This was especially true as the Cold War ramped up. Of course, Eisenhower didn’t enjoy the same luxury of the current 747s back in the 1950s. While the Lockheed VC-121 Constellation used at the time had office space and a small communications center, it only held about 16 people and didn’t contain nearly as many amenities as today’s planes.


While the 747s have some impressive security features, there’s another plane out there that’s prepared for a much bleaker outcome. In the 1970s, the U.S. military designed and built four Boeing E-4s as a way to protect the president and key government officials during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear attack. It’s a worst-case scenario that has earned the plane nicknames like “the Flying Pentagon” and “the Doomsday Plane.”

The exact details of its defenses aren’t available to the public, but it’s said these planes are outfitted with radiation-proof windows, thermal and nuclear shielding, and countermeasures against direct fire. It’s estimated to house 67 satellite dishes in order to communicate with forces all over the globe should the worst occur.

When the president isn’t on it, it’s usually reserved for trips taken by the secretary of defense. One also always trails Air Force One during overseas trips should a catastrophe occur.


The two planes currently known as Air Force One were first used when George H. W. Bush was in office back in the 1990s and are on track to be replaced sometime in the next few years. The entire project is estimated to cost over $5 billion and will include two new Boeing 747-8 airliners that will become VC-25Bs (that’s the military designation) after extensive modifications. Most of the details are being kept secret and the planes aren’t slated for use until 2024. Even with the hefty price tag, the new planes lack some key features of the current aircraft, including the ability to refuel in the air. They will, however, be able to travel much further in a single flight than their predecessors.


Full of electronics, televisions, and phones, Air Force One has everything the president needs in case of a crisis. All onboard electronics are protected against electromagnetic pulses and hackers. The plane also contains “advanced secure communications equipment,” but the full details of what that entails are not available to the public. However, the White House states that the president would have everything necessary to respond to an attack on the United States while in the air.

The Crew Knows How To Cater To Dignitaries

President Ronald Reagan was such a fan of jelly beans that both the Oval Office and Air Force One were always stocked with the candy. But Air Force One’s crew can do better than just producing the president’s favorite candy. The crew even knows how everyone likes their coffee. A National Geographic video shows a sign in the galley: President Bush took his coffee black with Equal, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took decaf with cream and Equal on the side. No need to ask!

The Motorcade Travels Ahead of Air Force One

Have you seen videos of the president disembarking from Air Force One and then climbing into his usual tank-like limo — even in another country? There’s a reason for that. The Air Force usually sends the president’s bulletproof motorcade ahead of Air Force One in a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane. This way, presidents have safe transportation both in the air and once they reach their destination.

The ‘Doomsday’ Plane Follows Air Force One

The aircraft popularly called the “Doomsday” plane always follows Air Force One. This plane (there are reportedly four of them in existence), the E-B4 Advanced Airborne Command Post, is an airborne nuclear bunker and command center that was designed at the height of the Cold War to resist a nuclear attack. It trails the president in case of an emergency, and just like Air Force One planes, most of its tech specs and capabilities are classified.

Air Force One Is Larger And Faster Than President Trump’s Personal Plane

President Trump’s personal plane wins out in fanciness over the utilitarian features of Air Force One thanks to ornate decorations such as gold-plated seat belts and custom family crests embroidered into the leather seatbacks, and even a movie theater. However, as president, he has to fly on Air Force One because of the official plane’s capabilities for defense and security. Air Force One is also larger, faster and can fly for longer without refueling.

It’s Expensive

Operating Air Force One costs a lot of money — millions. And while the numbers vary, even domestic trips are expensive for U.S. taxpayers: A conservative watchdog group tracking presidential travel expenses found that the cost of one of President Trump’s flights to a campaign rally in Arizona reached $1.5 million. Wow! But, now that we know so much more about Air Force One, it’s not surprising to learn that keeping our leaders safe doesn’t come cheap.

Resources, “Amazing Air Force One Facts That Only A Few Presidents Have Been Willing To Confess.” By JOEL KLEIN;, “A look inside the secrets of Air Force One.” By Jessica Evans;, “11 Facts About Air Force One.” BY ANNE TAYLOR;

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