Korean Air 747-8 To Become Korea’s ‘Air Force One’ In Germany

A Korean Air 747-8 has made its way to Hamburg, Germany, for its conversion to a Presidential aircraft. The Korean government leased the plane last year to serve as the new “Code One” and replace the aging 747-400. Let’s find out more about this jet.

Korean 747-8
Korean Air has leased one of its 747-8s to the government for five years to serve as the new Presidential aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

Arriving in Germany

According to photographer Dirk Grothe, the 747-8 arrived in Hamburg yesterday to begin the retrofitting process. The aircraft chosen to be the next Presidential jet is registered HL-7643, a Boeing 747-8 delivered new to Korean Air in May 2017. This nearly four-year-old aircraft will now spend five years as the country’s VIP transport.

In Hamburg, the plane will undergo an extensive cabin redesign and addition of new security features. While exact details are not known, we can expect a VIP cabin for the President and their staffers, along with a suite of defensive and countermeasure weapons.

Korean 747-8
The plane will get a new livery, interior, and security overhaul during its time in Germany. Photo: Lukáš Musil via Wikimedia Commons

The communication and security features could be similar to the US’s new Air Force One (also a 747-8). Unlike previous Code One aircraft, Korea has opted to lease the plane exclusively for five years and to overhaul its design.

Previously, the government would temporarily lease a Korean Air or Asiana Airlines 747-400 and reconfigure it for Presidential use. This is a common practice, with India also previously using an Air India 747 for VIP missions (which has now been replaced by two dedicated 777s).

Coming soon

The new Code One will come into service in November 2021 if there are no major delays. This means President Moon Jae-In will likely be the first President to fly this exclusive VIP jet. The current Code One, a Korean Air 747-400, will complete its lease in October 2021, after it was extended from March 2021.

South Korea Air Force One Code One 747-400
The current Code One 747-400 will complete its extended 10-year lease in October 2021. Photo: Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography via Wikimedia Commons

The new plane will be a major upgrade for the South Korean Presidential fleet. Aside from being a dedicated aircraft this time, the 747-8 has a greater range and more efficient GEnx engines. With a comfortable cabin guaranteed, the new Code One is set to be one of the most advanced Presidential jets globally.

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South Korea is not the first country that has chosen to upgrade its VIP transport in the last year. Germany took delivery of two new Airbus A350s (dubbed Merkel One) for VIP service last year, the first of which entered government service in January. India also took delivery of two upgraded 777-300ERs to serve as new VIP jets in late 2020.

German Government, Airbus A350, Angela Merkel
Germany recently began flying the first of its two Airbus A350 dedicated for government use. Photo: Lufthansa Technik

Perhaps the most recognizable Presidential aircraft, the new 747-8 Air Force One, will come into service in 2024. Overall, governments around the world have chosen to upgrade their fleets and offer the most security to their top officials.

What do you think about Korea’s new Code One? Let us know in the comments!