There’s no other aircraft more iconic than Air Force One, the diplomatic flying vessel of American freedom that carries the president and its staff, on diplomatic missions around the world.
The current plane, a special version of a Boeing 747, is a cultural icon, featured in everything from movies to television, and has an iconic livery they can be recognised by almost anyone in the world.
What many people don’t know is that there actually two Boeing 747-200’s in the Air Force One livery, with the one in use currently called the titular name, and the other spare when not in use called the very easy name of SAM 28000.
But these planes are now approaching their 20th birthday, and the White House is starting to look for the next generation of Air Force One.
History of Air Force One
Before we can dive into what the new version of Air Force One will be, it’s best to look at what planes they have used before.
The very first “Air Force One” (it would not receive its actual callsign name for many more years) was a Douglas Dolphin Amphibian in 1933 and was used by Franklin D Roosevelt until the start of World War Two. During the war, as the president was required to cover a flight of over 5500 Miles (8,890km) between the USA and Africa, a Boeing 314 flying boat was employed, called the Dixie Clipper.
In 1947, President Harry S. Truman used a military C-118 LiftMaster, which had a very distinctive bald eagle painted on its nose. In 1953, an Eastern Airlines commercial flight (callsign 8610) entered the same airspace as the president’s plane (callsign Air Force 8610), which resulted in some confusion. Thus from 1959 onwards, any plane the President flew on was given the unique call sign Air Force One.
From then on a variety of different aircraft were used, from a propeller Lockheed C-121 constellation, till, under John F. Kennedy, a Boeing 707 jet was built specifically for the purpose of ferrying “the most powerful man in the world”.
The livery that we have seen on all Air Force One jets since Kennedy is based on the typeface used on the Declaration of Independence, specifically the country’s name in bold, widely spaced uppercase letters.
What’s next for Air Force One
It was recently announced that Boeing had won the new Air Force One contract and will be creating the next generation of presidential transport.
The new Boeing Air Force One contract is worth US$3.9 billion USD, and will be for two new planes, speculated to be the modern Boeing 747-800.
But the livery might change dramatically with the current US president, Donald Trump looking to a bolder, ‘more’ American look.
“Boeing gave us a good deal. And we were able to take that. But I said, ‘I wonder if we should use the same baby blue colours?’ And we’re not.”
And it’s not just the colours that will be changing on the plane. President Trump (whom if the planes are delivered in the mid-2020s, will never get an opportunity to even go on the planes) has said that he wants to overhaul the living quarters, making the bed much bigger (much like on his own private plane that he currently owns) and make the interior far more opulent.
Boeing will deliver the two new Air Force One planes by 2024.