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Civics 101: Air Force 1 – White House in the Sky

While President Trump has had his own aircraft for quite some time, it has been noted in recent news that his new jet, also known as Air Force One, is making a great backdrop for his city stops around the country. It would seem that even a billionaire can be impressed by the nation’s most recognized call sign.

At the same time, Trump recently did something to the Air Force One fleet that no other president has; he lowered the price. After just one hour of negotiation with Boeing, the new cost, and the commitment from the CEO, knocked off $1 billion taxpayers won’t have to pony up.

Fun Facts

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to be airborne in 1910.

The Presidential Airlift Group was founded in 1944 as the Presidential Pilot Office at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is part of the White House Military Office.

Air Force One is not a plane; it is a call sign for any U.S. Air Force craft carrying the President. When POTUS is ferried from the White House to the airport, he flies in a USMC helicopter, which is designated Marine One. The President is most frequently seen traveling on the large white and blue planes that have served since the Kennedy administration.

The presidential call sign was established for security purposes during the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The change came about after a 1953 incident where an Eastern Airlines commercial flight (8610) had the same call sign as the flight the president was on (Air Force 8610). The airliner accidentally entered the same airspace, and after the incident, the unique presidential aircraft call sign “Air Force One” was introduced. The first official flight of Air Force One was in 1959, during the Eisenhower administration.

Various propeller-driven aircraft were used until 1962. 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.

The Boeing 727s that serve as Air Force One are as tall as a six story building.

The design of the plane is intended to be noticed and look intimidating wherever the President goes. The large Presidential seal, American flag and bold lettering are symbols of a standing presidency.

The original design by the Air Force was red and gold, but President Kennedy thought it looked too regal. First Lady Jackie Kennedy chose a French artist to design the exterior and she designed the interior of the first Air Force One herself. The style has remained largely unchanged as her legacy although they do replace the carpet often.

The look and even the font of “United States of America” on the side of the plane was inspired by the hand-written lettering at the top of the “Declaration of Independence”.

The 727s can be re-fueled in mid-air. It can travel half the circumference of the globe “on one tank” but as long as fuel is available, the President can remain aloft indefinitely. (As long as there’s food…?)

Air Force One is known as the flying White House due to security measures that prevent its flight path from being tracked, its transmissions from being jammed, and defensive measures that can protect the President in case of attack. It also has 85 telephones and two-way radios to allow the President to stay in command.

It is specially modified to fly up to 700 mph (nearly Mach 1) and at 45,000 feet.

The plane has three levels and 4000 square feet of floor space. There is a living space for the President; including a bedroom, bath, gym, mini-hospital with an operating room and a kitchen capable of feeding 100 people. There is also a conference room and high-tech office.

Air Force One is often preceded by cargo flights that include the Presidential limo and supplies for the trip for his entourage and staff.

Crew members are carefully screened military personnel, with spotless service histories. Crew members who prepare meals must operate with a high level of security. When buying food, they visit stores undercover, and select stores at random, to protect the president from a poison attack.

Every flight of Air Force One is considered a military operation.

The exterior of the plane is buffed by Gold Medal enriched flour. The aluminum is so finely polished that anything more abrasive than flour would scratch it.

When the President must travel on a commercial flight, the call sign is Executive One.

~Adapted from various public domain sources.

Top left: LBJ’s Lockheed JetStar • President Teddy Roosevelt and pilot Arch Hoxsey • Above: President John Kennedy and First Lady Jackie depart the first Air Force One. • Bottom: The current Air Force One.

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