In the U.S., we’re celebrating Independence Day on July 4. Air Force One, the private jet that carries the president of the U.S., symbolizes the American values of freedom and independence.
Air Force One is actually the call sign, and it was first coined in 1953. It technically refers to any Air Force aircraft the president uses. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly while in office when he traveled to the Yalta Conference in 1945. After a series of prop planes were used by presidents, John F. Kennedy traveled in a personal jet, a Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. This plane served 36 years, all the way through the Clinton administration.
Today the name Air Force One belongs to a pair of modified Boeing 747s. The similarities to the 747 end at the frame. Extensive upgrades to communication equipment, defense systems, and amenities set the jets apart from all others.
This global command center in the sky boasts amenities you won’t find on another aircraft:
- The jet has its own medical office, with a doctor permanently on board. The medical office can be quickly converted into a surgical suite if needed.
- The two food galleys on board can feed up to 100 people at a time.
- Air Force One can refuel in midair, giving it essentially unlimited flight range.
- The electronics have been protected against electromagnetic pulses, and the communications equipment has top-secret security. This allows the plane to be used as mobile command center for the president in case of an attack on the United States.
- The president has his own office, lavatory, and conference room on board.
All of this is housed in over 4,000 square feet of space on three levels. That gives plenty of room for anyone who might be traveling with the president, including staff, press, and guests.
The U.S. Air Force will be replacing the current planes in 2017. The sole bidder was the bizav giant Boeing. The new planes will either be their Boeing 747-8 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The current planes will likely be put on display like their predecessors. You can see the jet that served from 1972—2001 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.