air force one
Air Force One, the typical air transport of the President of the United States of America, flying over Mount Rushmore. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/US Air Force One

Whenever the US President needs to fly to another city or country, he uses a massive 747 jetliner called Air Force One.

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While the country’s president needs a dedicated aircraft for official travel, does it need to be such a massive, dollar-draining one? That’s what aerospace and defence analysts have been asking for a while.

According to an Associated Press report from 2017, then-US Defence Secretary James Mattis ordered a full review of the $3.73 billion (Dh13.7 billion) presidential aircraft program. A panel of defence analysts also proposed replacing the aircraft with a Northrop Grumman B-21 stealth bomber, or a less expensive militarised Boeing 737 fleet.

Soon, US President Joe Biden will be the first to make the switch and enjoy all the perks of a brand-new presidential plane, the Boeing 747-8i – a newer version that’s larger and more efficient than its predecessor.

Here are some other interesting facts to know about Air Force One:

It’s a radio call name

Technically, Air Force One is the radio call name for any plane that carries the US president, and not the aircraft itself. By giving it a call name, it helps air traffic controllers avoid confusion with other nearby planes.

The plane is a mobile command centre

Air Force One cannot be any old ordinary plane – currently, it’s a three-level, flying Oval office, according to the White House. The modified interior of the plane spans about 370 square metres and includes a conference room, offices, and high-tech electronics, so that the US President is always able to conduct operations, even mid-flight.

It has lots of room

The plane can seat up to 70 people and has living quarters to accommodate senior advisors and special agents. It also has two food-preparation galleys, a medical operation theatre and a doctor on every flight.

It’s fast and furious

The plane can travel at a top speed of 965km/hr – almost the speed of sound. It can also reach an altitude of 45,100 feet (commercial flights usually travel at 30,000 feet). Air Force One also always has hidden electronic jammers and flares that can be deployed to divert heat-seeking missiles. And as with other combat planes, it can be refueled in mid-air with the help of a fuel plane that hovers overhead when needed. The plane can stay in the air indefinitely if an unsafe situation develops on the ground – but this facility is only reserved for unusual and extreme situations.

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