We present some amazing facts about President Obama's Air Force One, the military plane dubbed ‘the flying White House’, and the safest and most secure aeroplane in the world.
Technically, the name ‘Air Force One’ is applied to any US Air Force plane carrying the President. In practice, however, there are two highly customised, twin Boeing 747-200B aircraft carrying the tail codes 28000 and 29000, which are used to carry the President and his administration around the world.
Thanks to its onboard technology, on September 11th 2001 President Bush was able to operate from Air Force One when all ground positions seemed vulnerable to attack.
Its electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse associated with a nuclear blast and its armour-plated wings are able to withstand nuclear explosions from the ground. All its windows are also armour-plated.
The plane is outfitted with electronic counter measures (ECM) to jam enemy radar and it can also eject flares to throw heat-seeking missiles off course.
Also onboard are 85 telephones, including 28 with encrypted secure lines, 19 televisions, computers, two-way radios and fax machines.
Before Air Force One was born, US Presidents travelled either on a C-87A Liberator Express, christened the ‘Guess Where To’, or a C-54 Skymaster called ‘Sacred Cow’.
The Air Force then introduced two Boeing 707 jets in 1958 and began using the radio call term 'Air Force One' during President Eisenhower's administration. The plane became publicly known as Air Force One in 1961 when JFK took office and oversaw the blue and white design of the plane still used today.
Air Force One covers 4,000 sq feet and stands almost as tall as a six-storey building. Each of the twin 707s has four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 jet engines, which provide 56,700 pounds of thrust a piece. The top speed is between 630 and 700 miles per hour and the ceiling maximum (how high the plane can fly) is 45,100 feet.
Be afraid, be very afraid. Whenever he flies anywhere, the President always arrives at the aeroplane base with ‘the football’ - the briefcase that holds the codes for nuclear deployment. An Air Force officer guards the football for the entire flight, before passing it to an Army officer once they reach their destination.
Air Force One has played a part in some of the most historical events in the past 50 years.
One of the ‘twin’ 707 jets launched in 1958 flew President John F Kennedy to Dallas on that fateful day in November 22, 1963 and brought his body back to Washington later the same day. On the return flight, with JFK’s body in the hold, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the next president.
Air Force One also flew President Nixon from Washington to California following his resignation. Mid-flight, the crew received confirmation that Gerald Ford had been sworn in as the next president, and they changed their radio call name from Air Force One to SAM (special air mission) 27000.
Air Force One is the only working aeroplane that is capable of refuelling midair, meaning that in the case of an emergency situation it could stay up in the air indefinitely.
Each plane carries 53,611 gallons of fuel and weighs 833,000 pounds fully loaded for a long-range mission. With a full tank, the planes can fly half way around the world.
Air Force One has scores of technology in its onboard medical facility. The medical room has an extensive pharmacy, loads of emergency room equipment and even a fold-out operating table.
The plane has a staff doctor, who always travels with the President. On every mission, the plane is prepared for a wide range of potential emergencies and wherever he goes, a supply of Obama’s AB- type blood is always in supply.
Air Force One got its Hollywood close-up in the 1997 Harrison Ford movie of the same name. While some of the details in the film are inspired by the real thing, insiders say the movie does veer a little from the truth.
The Air Force says the real plane does not have an escape pod, as depicted in the movie, or even onboard parachutes. Although, as certain features on board are still classified by the Air Force, escape pods could be one of the things they won't talk about.
The pair of Air Force Ones are based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, Washington. There, Air Force crews inspect the plane and runway before every flight. Once the President has arrived at the base, if crews spot any unauthorized craft in the area they are authorized to shoot on sight.
Once Air Force One is in the air, a number of F16 fighter jets often flank the aircraft for added protection.
The ‘flying White House’ has three levels. The lowest level of the plane mostly serves as cargo space. Most of the passenger room is on the middle level, and the upper level is largely dedicated to communications equipment.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle travel in an extensive suite that has a large office, workout room, bathroom and bedroom.
The plane’s two food preparation galleys are equipped to feed about 100 people at a time, and the storage area holds as many as 2,000 meals. Senior staff members have their own office area. There is a separate area for reporters travelling with the president.
All in all, Air Force One can comfortably carry 70 passengers and 26 crew members.
Air Force One crew members are carefully screened military personnel, with exemplary service histories. Onboard the plane, the crew provides 24-hour first class service. To be an Air Force One pilot, you must have more than 2,000 hours in the cockpit, worldwide flight experience, and a spotless record.
Each set of Air Force One’s has a life span of 20-years. The twin 707s introduced in 1978 served President Reagan throughout his two terms, and George Bush Sr. through the first part of his term. In 1990, the Air Force replaced the planes with the 747s in use today. The planes may be replaced again as early as 2010, when they hit their 20-year mark.
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