Uzair Ali describes the flying wonder
No air plane has become so well-known as the American presidential aircraft dubbed as Air Force One which is the most visible symbol of US presidency that is widely commented upon in private and public spheres. Its uniqueness lies in its exclusivity as a machine that can transport leader of the free world to any part of the globe. Very clearly marked with the Seal of the President of the United States Air Force One is provided special privileges when it is in the air. Special arrangements are undertaken when it is parked inside America or on foreign soil.
The US presidents took to air travel about a century ago but the standardised mode of travel emerged quite late. Under John Kennedy’s presidency air travel entered the jet age as a modified long-range Boeing 707 was bought for the purpose. Kennedy also did away with the rather regal livery of red and metallic gold and replaced it with polished aluminum fuselage on the bottom side and added two blues — slate-blue associated with early republic and presidency and a more contemporary cyan– to exemplify present and future. He added presidential seal to both sides of the fuselage and a large American flag painted on the tail with the sides reading “United States of America” in capital letters.
Since 2015 Boeing 747-8 is being used as Air Force One and actually it is not one but two identical aircrafts that are intermittently used and are rotated every few months. The presidential ride carries specific tail codes 28000 and 29000. Containing the facility of refueling in mid air it has unlimited range and can carry the President wherever he needs to travel. The onboard electronics are hardened to protect against an electromagnetic pulse and the aircraft is equipped with advanced secure communications equipment, allowing the aircraft to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States. Additionally it flies in convoy with several cargo planes that carry surplus stores and is escorted by fighter jets.
The aircraft itself is almost as tall as a six story building and as long as a city block. The plane has four General Electric CF6-80C2B1 jet engines providing 56,700 pounds of thrust a piece. The top speed is between 630 and 700 miles per hour and it can rise up to 45,100 feet. 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 Air Force One is equipped to fly half way around the world.
It is not widely known that the flight of the plane is officially rated as a military operation. The President flies out to Andrews Air Force Base in a Marine One helicopter whereby the U.S. Air Force typically sends the president’s bulletproof motorcade ahead of Air Force One in a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane so that the president has access to safe transportation at the destination as well.
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. Its entourage 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.
It is also one of the most luxurious planes in the world providing maximum comfort to the president and his entourage. It can carry more than 100 people with space for 26 crew and 76 passengers. The plane carries two pilots, as well as a flight engineer, a navigator, and cabin crew. The comfort provided in the plane are extraordinary though many aircrafts of billionaire entrepreneurs are reported to contain even more luxurious fixtures and fittings but they are bereft of the panache associated with Air Force One.
Journalists are accommodated in the back space with designated blue carpet and business class seats. Every seat is equipped with its own flat screen TV on which journalists can choose from 20 on demand films and hours of music. The presidential plane also has space to accommodate guests, who are entertained in the room next to the press corps with a secret service detail separating the two. Those offered a ride on AFO typically include congressmen, governors and celebrities.
Air Force One is a luxury only America can afford. The cost of operating it comes to about $206,337 every hour it flies. Building the replacement 747-8 jets is also estimated to cost $3.73 billion over 12 years. But such an expense is peanuts for the US whose defense budget over the next 12 year will climb to $8.132 trillion. It is not easy to be a superpower. TW