The U.S. Air Force (USAF) said on Wednesday during an announcement, that it has picked the Boeing commercial 747-8 airliner to replace its current, presidential aircraft, one of the most visible symbols of the United States.

First of all – let’s have a look at the lane itself – the 747-8.

The decision comes a month after Boeing said it would slow production of the four-engine 747-8 aircraft to 1.3 per month from 1.5 a month due to several declining orders. Therefore Boeing welcomed the Air Force’s decision to skip a competition and opt for the 747-8, citing its 50-year history of building presidential aircraft.

“The Boeing 747-8 is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States that when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission,” said Air Force One Secretary Deborah James in a statement. The Air Force said it intended to award a sole source contract to Boeing, but they must still negotiate a contract and the modifications needed to adapt the jet for presidential use, which will take several years. Details regarding the new contract were not released, but it said it planned to purchase enough of the technical baseline to permit competition for maintenance during the plane’s planned 30-year lifespan. The Air Force currently has 2 VC25s in operation, which are 2 specially modified 747-200Bs.

A spokesman for the Air Force One said that the Air Force One program would use thoroughly tested and tried technologies and commercially certified equipment to keep the program affordable. The Air Force decision was widely expected since the only other suitable four-engine jet is the A380 built by Airbus in Toulouse, France. The 747-8 is the only four-engine commercial jet that Boeing currently produces, providing an extra margin of flight safety over the more standard twin-engine planes. But the Air Force order for a few 747s might not extend the life of the 747 program, which has failed to capture much business in the recent few years.

Boeing was clearly trying to preserve production so it could fill the Air Force order, which will add up to a huge cost, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. Now that the firm order has been sealed and is there, he said, it might be an opportunity for the program to come to an end. But last year, Boeing did not get orders for 747s, despite booking a record 1,432 net orders for commercial aircraft. At the end of 2014, Boeing had 36 unfilled orders for the plane, which lists at about $370 million.

Whenever the president travels overseas or across the country, he takes his high-tech jumbo jet with him. On the September 11th attacks, the president’s plane proved that it was much more than an executive jet – it became a mobile bunker when all ground positions seemed vulnerable to attack.

The current aircraft

 “Air Force One” isn’t really the aircraft, It’s simply just the radio callout name for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president of the United States. As soon as the president steps aboard any Air Force plane, that plane is referred to as Air Force One by the crew ATC (Air traffic controllers), in order to avoid confusion with any other planes in the area. If the president rides on an Army aircraft, for whatever reason, that aircraft is referred to as Army One, and whenever he boards his specialized helicopter, that craft is Marine One. Civilians generally refer to the plane itself as Air Force One, of course. Currently, there are actually two planes that regularly fly under this designation, which are nearly identical Boeing 747-200B jets. The planes themselves are designated VC-25A, with tail numbers 28000 and 29000.

Conference room inside the aircraft

Conference room inside the aircraft

Inside, the President and his travel companions enjoy 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. Air Force One includes a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board. The plane’s two food preparation galleys can feed 100 people at a time.

Its special features

The talented crew prepares the fresh meals in two fully-equipped galleys. They store a large amount of food in freezers in the lower areas of the aircraft. The crew is equipped to feed approximately 100 people at a time, and the storage area is capable of holding up to 2,000 meals.

Unlike a normal civilian 747, the plane has its own retractable stairways, for the rear entrance and the front entrance. These stairways open onto the lower deck, and crew members and staff climb internal staircases to get to the upper decks. The plane also has its own baggage-loader. With these additions, the plane never has to depend on an airport’s facilities, which could be a security flaw.

The most spectacular addition onto the aircraft is the technology.

It consists of 85 telephones, a collection of two-way radios, fax machines and computer connections. In addition, it has 19 televisions and assorted office equipment. The telephony system is set up for normal air to ground connections, and obviously reliable lines. The president and his staff can reach just about anybody worldwide while cruising at around 36,000ft above the ground. This technology adds up to approximately 238 miles of confusing wiring (twice the normal on a 747). Thanks to its heavy shielding, the wiring, and crucial electronics are capable of protecting the wiring and electronics during a nuclear blast.

Another special addition is the in-flight air to air refueling capabilities. As with the B-2 and other combat craft, in-flight refueling gives Air Force One the ability to stay up in the air indefinitely, which could be crucial in an emergency situation similar to 9/11.

Additional Readings –

Author Jake Meilak