A British Royal Air Force pilot could become the first non-American to fly Air Force One. Air Force One is the call sign for a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President. When we hear Air Force One, we automatically think of the blue and white specially modified Boeing 747s. And while the 747 is the aircraft that most American presidents fly, Air Force One can be any plane in which the president is a passenger.
The plans to allow a non-American to be in charge of one of the countries most symbolic icons are the result of a 40-year-long exchange program between the RAF and USAF. In a move designed to maximize relations between the British and American military’s, Royal Air Force pilots can be found flying everything from U2 spyplanes to stealth B2 nuclear bombers.
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The RAF pilot is a Wing Commander
According to the British newspaper the Daily Express, an RAF Wing Commander has been earmarked to join the elite group of aviators who fly the United States president. The equivalent rank of an RAF Wing Commander would be a Lieutenant Colonel in the USAF.
In total American presidents and senior cabinet officials have a fleet of 15 aircraft at their disposal, which include the following aircraft:
- Two VC-25s – the military variant of the Boeing 747
- Eight VC-32As, a modified Boeing 757-200 aircraft
- Two C-40 Clipper’s, a modified version of the Boeing 737-700
- Several Gulfstream G550s
The two military versions of the Boeing 747 take turns as presidential aircraft and feature a state-of-the-art communications system and the ability to refuel while in mid-air.
Andrews Air Force Base
The fleet of presidential aircraft is operated by the 89th Airlift Wing (89th AW) based at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs, Maryland. Of the 1,000 military personnel who make up the 89th, there are 80 specially chosen pilots and 89 flight attendants. To be selected to fly Air Force One pilots must have a minimum of 2,500 hours of flying time and be experienced flying fighter jets or other military aircraft types.
According to the Daily Express, sources have told them that the so-far unnamed British officer would begin his tour of duty co-piloting other aircraft in the presidential fleet. Once they are satisfied with his performance, he will then be placed on the list of pilots able to fly the Commander in Chief. Air Force One always has a compliment of three pilots onboard every flight caple of flying the plane should the flight crew become incapacitated.
A senior source informed the paper over the weekend about the move saying,
“This plan has been in the pipeline for a long time and now it appears that the green light has been given on both sides of the pond.
“The Wing Commander chosen for this job has previously served a number of years in the US as an SO (Staff Officer) is well acquainted with how the US Air Force operates.
“The exchange program has grown considerably in both scope and depth since 1971. This really is a symbolic culmination of a four-decades-old and deep-rooted exchange program between the USAF and RAF founded on trust.
“It will mark a historic moment for the RAF, which celebrated its centenary two years ago.”
What do you think about a non-American airman flying the president? Please let us know in the comments.