Airbus A380 Air Force One: Why It Never Happened

More than a decade ago, the US Air Force was on a mission to get the ball rolling on a replacement for the aging VC-25A Boeing 747s often used to transport the president. Known as Air Force One when POTUS is onboard, the two jets are inefficient and becoming difficult to maintain. In their search, the USAF contemplated a couple of modified Airbus A380s for the role. Here’s why it didn’t work out.

A380 air force one
An A380 Air Force One? Almost, but not quite. Photo: Getty Images

Obama was offered an A380 presidential transport

The Airbus A380 was such a groundbreakingly large and unusual plane, it attracted attention from all corners of the world. While only a handful of airlines went on to order the type, the love for the superjumbo spread far and wide. In fact, according to a 2007 article from FlightGlobal, fans of the A380 even included, at one point, the White House!

Back then, the United States’ Air Mobility Command (AMC) was investigating a potential replacement for the aging presidential aerial transport. FlightGlobal states that the agency requested information about three Airbus jets, the A340-600, the A330-200 and the A380, as part of a survey into “VIP Large Aircraft Recapitalization”.

Two years later, and the Guardian reported that Airbus was making preparations to present the then-president Barak Obama with an A380 concept to replace the current 747-based transporters. Up against the Boeing 747-200, it looked pretty good on paper, boasting better fuel efficiency and ridiculous amounts of interior space.

In the end, it didn’t get picked. But why did the White House give up on the superjumbo?

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Why wasn’t it chosen?

As most fans of the US presidential transport will already know, the aircraft eventually chosen for the job of replacing the current modified 747s known as VC-25As are also from the Boeing stable. Indeed, they are also 747s, albeit the newer and more efficient 747-8, and will be designated as the VC-25Bs.

Trump Air Force One New Livery
The VC-25As will be replaced by the newer model of the 747. Photo: Getty Images

So, why did the White House fall out of love with the A380?

The answer to that is largely for all the same reasons that airlines are falling out of love with it. For a start, it’s just too big. The current VC-25A is already a behemoth, with copious amounts of space inside for all the guests and facilities required. There would be little benefit to the president from adding in even more floor space. Its giant size also limits the airports at which it can land, which wouldn’t be a positive for the POTUS.

It’s also not fuel efficient, compared to the operational characteristics of the 747-8. In its passenger form, the range of the two aircraft are roughly the same, but the A380 requires around 15% more thrust than the 747. More thrust means more fuel burn, and with no air-to-air refueling modifications developed for the A380, that’s not a good thing.

Air Force One will remain a Boeing plane. Photo: Getty Images

Finally, and probably the most overwhelming reason for the final decision, the A380 is an Airbus product. US presidents have always driven in US-built Cadillacs and flown in US-built planes. As such, Boeing was the obvious choice for the next generation of presidential transport.

Would you have liked to see the president of the United States on an Airbus A380? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.