“Air Force One”-a historical witness of flight

Speaking of “Air Force One”, many fashionistas may think of a sports shoe (Air Force 1). In fact, the name “Air Force One” first came from the United States and was established as early as the era of President Eisenhower in the 1950s. One day in 1953, the US presidential plane “Air Force 8610” and a Eastern Airlines flight with the call sign of “8610” happened to fly in the same airspace. Due to the same call sign, the staff at the airport tower could not tell which one was the real presidential plane. Fortunately, there was no danger in the end. Since then, the US presidential plane has a unique call sign-“Air Force One.”

Strictly speaking, “Air Force One” is just a symbolic aircraft title, which is only called when the current president of the United States boarded an aircraft belonging to the US Air Force. If the current President of the United States is flying a Marine Corps or Navy aircraft, he is called “Marine One” or “Marine One.” However, under normal circumstances, “Air Force One” is used to refer to the presidential plane of the United States, and is often referred to as the “White House in the Air.”

Contemporary “Air Force One”
At present, the most famous “Air Force One” are two VC-25A aircraft. They are military versions of Boeing 747 airliners designated by the U.S. Air Force. They were ordered in 1986 and entered service in 1990. They are the special planes of the past four U.S. presidents. . The tail numbers of the two aircraft are SAM 28000 and SAM 29000 respectively. SAM is the English abbreviation for “special mission.” The two planes have the same configuration. When the president travels, they often take off at the same time. It is impossible for outsiders to know which plane the president took. The US government has taken a lot of public relations photos for the two blue and white planes, and they have become a symbol of American power.

From the perspective of basic parameters, “Air Force One” is modified on the basis of the Boeing 747-200 passenger aircraft, with a length of 70 meters, a weight of 375 tons, a height of 20 meters, a speed of 1,128 kilometers per hour, and a range of more than 10,000 kilometers. If needed, it can refuel in the air and fly for 7 consecutive days, which is enough to send the President of the United States to any place in the world. When patrolling in the air, “Air Force One” can serve as the military command center of the President of the United States.

The R&D and manufacturing cost of the VC-25A is as high as 3.5 billion U.S. dollars. It is the most expensive aircraft in the United States. It is 1.1 billion U.S. dollars more expensive than the second-ranked B-2 bomber. The cost of “Air Force One” for one hour of flying is about US$200,000, which is about 8 times that of an ordinary 747-400 civil airliner. It is ready to take off 24 hours a day, although the aircraft has been in service for 30 years and only flies less than 400 hours a year on average. According to the design service life of the aircraft, it can fly for more than 130 years.

From the perspective of internal structure, “Air Force One” has an area of ​​nearly 400 square meters, with bedrooms, toilets, shower rooms, medical areas, kitchens, meeting rooms and private offices. The wires on the aircraft are more than 3,000 kilometers long, and are equipped with 87 telephone lines, 19 computers, and multi-pulse frequency radio communication equipment with air-to-air and air-to-ground functions. They can receive information and guide ground work at any time, and can realize confidentiality. Communication. Generally speaking, what can be done in the White House and the Pentagon can be done on Air Force One.

“Air Force One” has undergone many modifications. For example, it has its own boarding ladder and baggage lift. Passengers and their luggage can board and depart the aircraft without relying on airport facilities. “Air Force One” also has the world’s most sophisticated defense system, equipped with advanced anti-missile system, airborne electronic countermeasures system can interfere with enemy radar, making it impossible to lock; the hot flame bomb launcher can launch a large number of signal bombs, Trick the hot-seeking missile to divert the target. All windows on the plane are equipped with bulletproof glass, and the thick armor covering the fuselage can withstand the shock wave of a nuclear bomb explosion. There is also an automatic ejection device in the plane, which can be automatically activated in case of an emergency to bounce the president to a safe place and land. Therefore, it is also known as “the safest airplane in the world.”

All flights of “Air Force One” belong to the military operations of the United States Air Force and are in charge of the Presidential Flight Group at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Whenever the “Air Force One” visits, there are always three military aircraft flying along, providing auxiliary functions such as transportation of materials, aerial fuel, radio navigation, and electronic detection. Special personnel and special equipment are responsible for all technical support such as aircraft maintenance. In the whole process of manufacturing and maintenance, at least two people must be present at any work. They supervise each other to ensure that the aircraft will not be maliciously damaged. Its spare parts have a dedicated warehouse and will not be stored and managed together with the general spare parts of the US Air Force. All this is to make “Air Force One” foolproof.

It is impossible for the President of the United States to travel with only two Air Force One. Generally speaking, the president will be accompanied by at least one communications aircraft of the National Intelligence Agency when he is visiting abroad. At the same time, he must also carry two “Marine Corps One”, several “Hercules” military transport aircraft and several bulletproof vehicles with him. The presidential helicopters VH-60D and VH-3D that fly around on the front lawn of the White House every day are the “Marine Corps One.” Under normal circumstances, the President of the United States travels first to arrive at Andrew’s Base on the “Marine Corps One”, and then fly to the country and the world on the “Air Force One”. Even if the President of the United States does not need to take the “Marine One” in the country he is visiting, the “Marine One” will be temporarily stationed in the hangar of the local airport, ready to be called.

Former “Air Force One”
The “Air Force One” currently in service with the SAM 28000 and SAM 29000 numbers was ordered during the Reagan era and served in the old Bush era; but in 1992, Bush Sr. failed to seek re-election as the president, so he himself did not use the new aircraft much. The first US president to frequently use the new “Air Force One” was Clinton.

“Air Force One” has two major flight records: one is that it has never lost luggage, and the other is that it never misses a point. However, Clinton broke the second record: Once, he had to cut his hair before boarding the plane, and the special plane had to wait patiently. “Air Force One” was also dubbed “Hair Force One” because of this incident.

Bush Jr., who took over as President Clinton, spent 8 years in the White House and enjoyed 8 years of presidential plane service, which can be regarded as helping the elder Bush get back a game. After leaving office, Bush Jr. once mentioned in a speech in Dallas that he did not miss the day when he was president, but he missed Air Force One very much because he had never lost his luggage during these eight years. Subsequently, “Air Force One” was used by Obama; then, it became Trump’s special plane.

SAM 28000 and SAM 29000, which have served 4 generations of US presidents, are now approaching their expiration date. Before them, the SAM 26000 and SAM 27000 aircraft were retired after their service life was reached. These are two Boeing 707-300 aircraft (VC-137-1), of which the SAM 26000 served from 1962 to 1998, serving from Kennedy to Clinton, including 8 US presidents. It is also the first jet-style presidential plane . SAM 27000 was used by President Nixon in 1972, and was used until SAM 28000 and SAM 29000 began to serve.

The blue and white paint of “Air Force One” also appeared in this period. In 1962, Kennedy asked someone to specially design the painting of the aircraft, and it has been used today. On the classic painting of “Air Force One”, the font of “United States of America” ​​is consistent with the font of the United States “Declaration of Independence”. On both sides near the nose, the emblem of the President of the United States is painted; on the tail, a large-scale American flag is sprayed.

In 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Only 90 minutes after the assassination, the then Vice President Johnson was sworn in as the next President of the United States on Air Force One. This “Air Force One” transported Kennedy’s body back to Washington, DC. During the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the SAM 26000 flew over the Kennedy Cemetery to pay tribute under the escort of 50 fighter jets.

For the Chinese, SAM 26000 is no stranger. When Nixon visited China in 1972, he took the SAM 26000. In the same year, my country ordered 10 Boeing 707 aircraft. The Boeing 707 was the most popular jet aircraft at the time. The swept wings and down-mounted engines that all civil airliners have today were the first to appear on the Boeing 707. Its popularity has led to the rapid development of airport terminals, runways, airline catering, baggage handling, reservation systems and other air transportation infrastructure. The appearance of this aircraft also promoted the upgrade of the air traffic control system to prevent interference with the flight of military jets.

Former “Air Force One” era
As we all know, the name “Air Force One” only appeared in 1953; then, how did people call the presidential plane before that? When did the presidential plane appear?

Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to fly in an airplane, and he rode an airplane built by the Wright brothers. The pilot Horches used to work for the Wright brothers and went down in history as the first pilot to fly a plane for the President of the United States.

The presidential plane in the true sense originated in the period of Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. Since then, all successive US presidents have had special planes.

Douglas Aircraft Corporation’s RD-2 amphibious aircraft is the first aircraft to be specially modified as a presidential aircraft. From 1933 to 1939, the U.S. Navy changed one RD-2 to a presidential plane. The President of the United States at the time was Franklin Roosevelt.

Franklin Roosevelt was also the first American president to visit by plane. In 1943, Franklin Roosevelt took a Boeing 314 airplane named “Dixie Flying Shear” to fly 5,500 miles (approximately 8,851 kilometers) to attend the Casablanca Conference to discuss the process of “World War II” with Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. Because of the threat of German submarines, Roosevelt preferred to fly across the Atlantic.

As the “World War II” approached the end, Franklin Roosevelt’s body went from bad to worse, and the US government changed a C-54 “Skymaster” transport plane into a presidential plane. The aircraft is a military model of the DC-4 passenger aircraft. The aircraft is equipped with radio communication equipment, beds for rest, and a lift that allows Roosevelt to get on and off in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, before Roosevelt’s death, he only took a C-54 once.

In April 1945, Franklin Roosevelt died, and Truman continued to use C-54. Truman signed the “National Security Act of 1947” on this plane, which was a major adjustment of the United States’ national strategy after World War II. After that, Truman replaced the C-54 with a C-118 (DC-6 military model), which was the VC-118 “Independent”. The nose of the VC-118 is very conspicuous. It was painted like a bald eagle, the national bird of the United States. Since then, the presidential plane finally has a special painting that symbolizes the United States.

Eisenhower was the first U.S. president to ride a jet plane. During his tenure, the radio call sign for “Air Force One” was officially born. In 1953, when the term was born, Eisenhower’s presidential plane was the original Lockheed VC-121 “Constellation”, which was the largest, fastest and most luxurious passenger plane in the late 1940s and was named “Columbine”. “Two” and “Columbine Three”, “Columbine” is the state flower of Mrs. Eisenhower’s hometown. These two planes were used until the Kennedy era.

In 1959, at the end of Eisenhower’s administration, Boeing VC-137 replaced VC-121 as the new “Air Force One.” This is a VIP modification of the Boeing 707, called the special air mission aircraft 970 (SAM 970). Soon thereafter, SAM 971 and SAM 972 also entered service.

In October 1962, Kennedy used the long-range version of Boeing 707 (Boeing VC-137C) as the presidential plane, numbered SAM 26000.

“Air Force One” of other countries
Out of frugality and security considerations, our leaders do not have an exclusive “Air Force One”, and the special planes used by the leaders for overseas visits are all provided by Air China. These planes usually perform commercial flight missions as usual. Before the leaders’ visits, Air China will modify the passenger planes in advance, removing some of the seats inside and replacing them with sofas and beds. The modified plane is generally composed of four parts: the front is the chief seat used by national leaders, the middle is the ministerial seat, the next is the seat of director-general officials, and the last is the seat of accompanying media reporters and staff.

Britain used to be another country in the five permanent members of the UN without a special plane for national leaders. When the head of the British government needs a short flight, the 32nd Squadron of the Royal Air Force is mainly responsible for the transportation of important personnel; when it needs to go out, it generally charters the Boeing 777 of British Airways. In 2006, the 36-year-long DC-8 plane used by Blair, the then prime minister, failed in Johannesburg, South Africa, causing him to fail to return to China in time to participate in a vote in the lower house of parliament. In 2016, the Royal Air Force announced its newly purchased VIP airliner—Airbus A330, which will be used exclusively to serve the prime minister and the British royal family for long-distance travel.

The French Air Force began to purchase large passenger aircraft in 2006. The French President’s hangar is currently very luxurious. In addition to the two Airbus A340 planes specially purchased to undertake the mission of the head of state, the French Air Force has also purchased two Airbus A330-200 passenger planes. The French presidential plane is equipped with top-level encrypted communication facilities, missile decoy systems, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms. It can be called a seven-star “presidential suite” in the sky.

In March 2008, the German government ordered two Airbus A340-300s to replace the original two Airbus A310s, and replaced six “Challenger” aircraft with two Airbus A319s and four “Bombardier 5000” business jets. Among them, the Airbus A340 aircraft is exclusively used as a special plane for the head of the German federal government. Cole, who once served as Chancellor of Germany, likes food very much. Therefore, the special plane carries a large number of food preparation equipment, which is called the “mobile kitchen in the sky.”

Former Russian President Yeltsin’s special plane was once the Il-62. Later, because it was not advanced enough, he converted the Il-96 into the president’s new special plane. Compared with “Air Force One”, the flight performance of IL-96 is not inferior, with particular emphasis on the comfort of presidential travel and general office needs. Its special plane can ensure that the President of the Russian Federation can get in touch with any place in the world at any time in the air. The decoration of this aircraft is extremely luxurious and it is called the “flying palace”.

In 1987, the Japanese government selected the second-generation Boeing 747-400 as the prime minister’s special plane through the “government special plane” procurement budget. This machine is the design crystallization of the digital age and is more modern. By 1991, two passenger planes were successively delivered to the government, and the two special planes were subsequently transferred to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. The special plane is specially equipped with special communication lines, which can directly talk to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the event of an emergency.

South Korea is highly similar to the United States in terms of the “Air Force One” special plane. The presidential plane currently in use is modified from a Boeing 747-400 passenger plane. The words “Republic of Korea” and “KOREA” in English are written on the left and right of the front door for the president to go up and down. When the South Korean presidential plane was visiting, the flight number was named “KAF (Korean Air Force) 001”, that is, “Korea Air Force One.”

The special plane of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un is a Soviet-made Il-62 aircraft, which is currently affiliated with North Korea’s Korea Airlines. The words “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” are written on the front of the aircraft’s fuselage and the North Korean flag is painted. A big red five-star drawn in a red circle is printed on the wing, which symbolizes the aircraft’s “No. 1 aircraft” status.

After talking about the “Air Force One” of various countries, let’s look back at the “Air Force One” of the United States. In general, the history of the US Air Force One is almost synchronized with the rise of the country, and it represents the honor and strength of the United States. As it accompanies successive US presidents on diplomatic missions, “Air Force One” has witnessed many historic moments. In January 2015, the U.S. Air Force decided to purchase the Boeing 747-8 as the new generation “Air Force One.” According to the White House statement, the two aircraft will be delivered in 2024.