At first glance, Air Force One might look like a typical Boeing 747 with a customized paint job. But there's a lot more than initially meets the eye with the presidential plane, specially modified by the U.S. Air Force to operate as a fully functional and secure flying White House.
Here are just some of the perks that come with flying as the Commander-in-Chief:
1. It Takes Two
The title of Air Force One implies that the plane is one of a kind. But, in fact, there are two identical planes. The planes are Boeing 747-200 models that have been specially-modified by the U.S. Air Force to meet the particular security and logistical needs of the president and his flying staff.
2. Gas On The Go
Who says you need to land to refuel a plane? Well, you don’t -- at least not if you’re the Commander-in-Chief. The presidential plane has the ability to refuel inflight, meaning it could stay airborne indefinitely. Though the feature would only be used in an emergency situation, Air Force One has special fuel cap on the nose of the plane to which a second Air Force plane could connect a gas pump of sorts, while cruising above the presidential plane. The fuel cap is well disguised on the nose of the plane by an artful paint job, which would be chipped should the feature ever need to be utilized.
3. It's (Almost) Supersonic
Air Force One has the ability to fly at a speed of over 600 miles per hour (or 92 percent of the speed of sound) -- so fast that F-16 fighter planes escorting the president’s plane while in flight on September 11 had difficulty keeping up and had to ask the plane’s pilot to slow down. Then-pilot Col. Mark Tillman later recalled that the plane was moving at almost supersonic speed.
4. Let's Talk
The plane is equipped with an encrypted telecommunications system so that the president is never more than a secure phone call away. The Commander-in-Chief can securely pick up one of the plane’s 87 phones and talk to anyone in the world from the sky. Should there ever be an attack on the United States, the plane could function as an airborne command center with high-speed internet access and the ability to deliver a nationally televised address from its video-teleconference system.
5. Extra Legroom
The president and accompanying passengers enjoy 4,000 square feet of internal space onboard the plane across three decks. The spacious presidential quarters include a living area complete with beds, a private bathroom and shower, a Situation Room, and presidential office. The office is so spacious the president can use a mobile treadmill, kept in the cargo hold but brought up for exercise sessions during long-haul flights. There is also an onboard medical facility and two kitchen galleys.
6. The Finer Side of Airplane Cuisine
These days you're lucky to get a bag of peanuts on the average commercial flight. But on Air Force One, the president, flying staff and traveling press are served by two kitchen galleys equipped to feed up to 100 people with carefully prepared food fit for a president. If the president doesn't like what's on the menu, staff keep a supply of groceries on hand to prepare whatever he’s craving.
7. Angel In The Sky
If it's not complicated enough that there is more than one Air Force One, there is also more than one name for the famous presidential jet. While "Air Force One" is the most commonly known name, its Air Force designation is VC-25A, and its classified call name is "Angel."
8. Bullet Proof
Though the details of the plane's defense capabilities are shrouded in secrecy, Air Force One is a military aircraft with the ability to function as a de facto bunker in the event of a nuclear attack and capable repelling airborne missiles should the plane ever come under attack while flying. The plane also has a special electronic defense system that can jam enemy radar.
9. Flying Emergency Room
Not only does a doctor travel with the president when he flies, but there’s a medical facility on Air Force One that is equipped top act as an operating room in the event of a life-threatening emergency. The facility includes a well-stocked pharmacy and medical tools, operating table and equipment, and for long trips overseas, also carries an extra reserve of the president’s blood type in a refrigerator in the medical annex.
10. The "Beast" Flies First Class
Wherever the president travels, his specially-crafted limo, dubbed the "Beast," goes too. The presidential limo receives the Commander-in-Chief when he lands at his destination. Accordingly, the American made Cadillac limo is sent ahead of the president in a military cargo plane so that it's in place on the proper tarmac when the president does arrive.