Fri | Sep 21, 2018

All about Air Force One

Published:Wednesday | April 1, 2015 | 11:26 AM
AP photos

'Air Force One, you are clear for landing'.

Some air traffic controller will get to say those words, or something close to it, when the Boeing 747-200B, carrying US President Barack Obama and his team, touches down on Jamaican soil this evening.

But what exactly is Air Force One? Technically, Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of a US Air Force aircraft carrying the US President. In common jargon, the term refers to those Air Force aircraft specifically designed, built, and used to transport the president. But since the middle of the 20th century, the term has been used to refer to specific planes equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief. Currently, Air Force One refers to one of two highly-customised Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000. The Air Force designation for the aircraft is VC-25A. By the way, the planes are only called Air Force One if, and only if, the President is actually on board. Otherwise, they're referred to by their number like any other plane.

Capable of refuelling in midair, Air Force One has unlimited range of travel (let's face it when you're the President of the US, you need to go places). The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse, and Air Force One is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, so the aircraft can function as a mobile command centre if the US is attacked. No wonder they call it 'the White House in the sky'. As for the other interior stuff? Just as cool. The President and his travel companions have 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including a presidential suite that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. The new rims on your Honda Civic pales in comparison now doesn't it?

If you're feeling queasy, Air Force One has a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board. The President should be able to find something to watch, as there are 19 LCD TVs on board. Hungry? Why wait? The plane’s two food preparation galleys can feed 100 people at a time. Air Force One also has quarters for those accompanying the President, including senior advisers and Secret Service officers.

Air Force One is maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group, part of the White House Military Office. The Group was founded in 1944 as the Presidential Pilot Office by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For the next 15 years, various propeller-driven aircraft were used, until President Dwight Eisenhower flew to Europe in 1959 aboard VC-137A, a Boeing 707 Stratoliner. 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, with the first of the current aircraft being delivered in 1990 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.

By the way, you should get a good look at Air Force One while it's here. That's because Fox News reported The Pentagon is considering spending billions of dollars on three new Boeing 747s to use as Air Force One. Reports are the Air Force hope to have the new 747s flying by 2023.

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