Air Force One and Two


Arguably, the most popular Boeing 747 operating in the world is the aircraft everyone refers to as Air Force One.  In fact, the name Air Force One is just a callsign.  The aircraft is officially designated as the VC-25A and only gains the title of Air Force One when the sitting President is on board the aircraft.

The idea of designating specific military aircraft to transport the President arose in 1943, when officials of the United States Army Air Forces, the predecessor to the United States Air Force, became concerned over the reliance on commercial airlines to transport the president. A single C-87 Liberator Express was reconfigured for use as the first dedicated VIP and presidential transport aircraft and named Guess Where II, but it was rejected by the Secret Service because of its safety record. A C-54 Skymaster was then converted for presidential use; this aircraft, dubbed the Sacred Cow, carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February 1945 and was subsequently used for another two years by President Harry S. Truman.

The callsign of Air Force One has a rich history to it.  In fact, it originated as a direct result of an incident between air traffic controllers back in 1953 during which a Lockheed Constellation named Columbine II, carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower, entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same flight number.  A number of aircraft types have been used as Air Force One since the creation of the presidential fleet, starting with two Lockheed Constellations in the late 1950s: Columbine II and Columbine III. It also operated two Boeing 707s, introduced in the 1960s and 1970s; since 1990, the presidential fleet has been two Boeing VC-25As, which are specifically configured, highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft. The Air Force plans to procure the Boeing 747-8 for the next version of Air Force One.

The aircraft used today to fill the role of Air Force One are a fleet of two VC-25As as well as a fleet of six C-32A aircraft.  The VC-25s are highly modified 747-200B aircraft, with secure communications equipment and are able to withstand the pulse of an EMP device.  Many of the aircraft's defensive capabilities are highly classified, but it does have the capability to perform in-flight refueling.  The aircraft features an elaborate suite for the President and his family, an office for the President to conduct business, a large conference room, seating in the back for the Press Corps, a full galley and medical annex, and much more.  It, however, does not feature an escape hatch as prominently seen in the 1997 film Air Force One.

The C-32A aircraft are based off of the popular Boeing 757-200 airliner and is used primarily for many dignitaries and the Vice President of the United States.  When the Vice President is on board the aircraft, it flies with the callsign of Air Force Two.  Many of its features are also classified but the aircraft is similarly configured like the VC-25 for its primary passenger to conduct business as needed.  The President will occasionally use the C-32A to get to locations whose infrastructure is unable to accommodate the larger VC-25A.  Regardless, the President will be preceded by at least one or more transport aircraft, usually C-17 or C-5, that carries the necessary equipment to support a Presidential or Vice Presidential visit for any length of time.  This equipment usually entails the official vehicles, helicopters, Secret Service personnel and their gear/weapons, and other classified equipment.

Photos in the slideshow of the VC-25A were taken in December 2018 during President Trump's visit to Philadelphia to attend the 119th playing of the Army-Navy Game, which was held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Photos of the VC-32A were taken earlier in 2018 and feature a visit by Vice President Pence visiting Philadelphia as well as a C-32A visiting Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for proficiency work.  Apologies for the large copyrights in each photo - this is necessary in this day and age where photos are widely stolen and passed along as if they are one's own.