The presidential air transport fleet consists of two specially configured Boeing
747-200B aircraft (tail numbers 28000 and 29000) with the Air Force designation VC-25A. When the
President of the United States is aboard either aircraft, or any Air Force aircraft for that matter,
the radio call sign is "Air Force One".
History of 'Air Force One'
Presidential air transport began in 1944 when a C-54 Skymaster,
known as the "Sacred Cow," was put into service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Then came the "Independence," a C-118 Liftmaster which
transported President Harry S Truman from 1947 to 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled
aboard two C-121 Constellations, "Columbine II" and "Columbine
III," from 1953 to 1961. A 1953 incident where Eisenhower's aircraft was callsign "Air Force 8610"
and an Eastern Airlines plane was callsign "8610" created the need to devise a unique call sign
for the presidential aircraft. The callsign "Air Force One" was classified during the 1950s to
identify not only the president's plane, but when he was aboard. In 1961, it became popularly
known when it identified President John F. Kennedy while flying aboard his C-118.
In 1962, a VC-137B specifically purchased
for use as "Air Force One", entered into service with the tail number 26000. It is perhaps the
most widely known and most historically significant presidential aircraft. Aircraft 26000 returned
President Kennedy's body to Washington, D.C. following his assassination on 22 November 1963.
Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office as the 36th president on board the aircraft at Love Field
in Dallas. This fateful aircraft also was used to return President Johnson's body to Texas
following his state funeral on 24 January 1973.
The original paint scheme was designed at the request of President Kennedy,
who wanted the airplane to reflect the spirit of the national character. He also directed that the
words "United States of America" appear prominently on the fuselage, and that the U.S. flag be painted
on the vertical stabilizer. The result was a striking blue and white color scheme that has more
or less carried to this day.
Developed to replace the aging and costly VC-137B/C which had served the nation's
chief executives for nearly 30 years, the VC-25A will usher presidential travel into the 21st century,
upholding the proud tradition and distinction of being known as "Air Force One." The first VC-25A
(#28000) flew as "Air Force One" on 6 September 1990, when it transported President George Bush to
Kansas, Florida, and back to Washington, D.C.
The Flying 'Oval Office'
Principal differences between the VC-25A and the standard Boeing 747, other than
the number of passengers carried, are the electronic and communications equipment aboard "Air Force
One," its interior configuration and furnishings, self-contained baggage loader, front and aft
air-stairs, and the capability for inflight refueling.
Both 747s were built at the Boeing facility in Everett, WA then flown to the
company's facility in Wichita, KS for configuration as "Air Force One." The aircraft were extensively
modified to meet presidential requirements.
The flying "Oval Office" has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space, which
features accommodations for the president such as an executive suite consisting of a stateroom (with
dressing room, lavatory, and shower) and the president's office. A conference/dining room is also
available for the president, his family, and staff. Other separate accommodations are provided for
guests, senior staff, Secret Service and security personnel, and the news media. Two galleys provide
up to 100 meals at one sitting. Six passenger lavatories, including disabled access facilities, are
provided as well as a rest area and mini-galley for the aircrew. The VC-25A also has a compartment
outfitted with medical equipment and supplies for minor medical emergencies.
About 238 miles of wire wind through the presidential carrier. This is more than
twice the wiring found in a typical 747. All wiring is shielded to protect it from electromagnetic
pulse, which is generated by a thermonuclear blast and interferes with electronic signals.
The aircraft's mission communications system provides worldwide transmission and
reception of normal and secure communications. The equipment includes 85 telephones, as well as
multi-frequency radios for air-to-air, air-to-ground and satellite communications.
Both VC-25A aircraft are flown by the presidential aircrew, maintained by the
Presidential Maintenance Branch, and are assigned to the Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing
at Andrews Air Force Base, MD.
Back to top