Pontifications: The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress

Feb. 14, 2021, © Leeham News: Air Force One is, after the national flag, the most recognizable and prestigious symbol of the United States.

By Scott Hamilton

It’s also shrouded in mystery.

A new National Geographic special premiering Feb. 15 lifts the veil, at least partially.

NatGeo was granted unprecedented access to the development of the new airplanes, two Boeing 747-8s, that will replace the 30-year old 747-200s that serve as Air Force One.

Inside look

The hour-long program gets an inside look to the conversion of two white-tail 747-8s to The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress.

Source: National Geographic

I think the title is somewhat confusing. Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress is famous through the ages. When I first saw the title in an email pitch to preview the program, I thought of the B-17. (I guess I’m showing my age.) Air Force One, to me, is the Flying White House.

Regardless, once the program gets into the conversion, “Flying Fortress” becomes evident. The new airplanes have defenses against air-to-air missiles and shielding against nuclear emissions that could render electronics useless. The current AF One has these as well, but context connects the title.

Boeing is converting these whitetail civilian airliners, built for the defunct carrier Transaero. One million feet of new wiring and cables will be installed with shielding against those nuclear emissions. A state-of-the-art medical-surgical operating room will be installed. These are more advanced and more capable than the infirmary on the current airplanes.

Better accommodations and a state-of-the-art galley capable of serving up to 2,000 meals over a presidential trip takes over from a cramped one on the current AF Ones.

The new airplanes have 5,000 square feet of space, much more than the current fleet.

There’s a lot about the new airplanes NatGeo was not permitted to see due to security concerns. And in some segments, NatGeo is upfront that security dictated what could be revealed, with one employee asking on camera what he could say.

A little history

NatGeo provides a little history of Air Force One (though the presidential flights weren’t so designated until President Eisenhower was nearly in a mid-air collision due to confusion over the call sign with a commercial airliner). The first airplane specifically designed for the president was a Douglas C-54, specially equipped with an elevator for President Franklin Roosevelt.

There is archival footage and photos of Lyndon Johnson sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy and of President George W. Bush following the 9/11 attacks. Bush 43’s father, George H. W. Bush (Bush 41), was the first president to use the current 747s. Footage shows his tour through the new presidential jumbo.

Transitioning to the new planes

NatGeo interviewed Donald Trump for this special. Typically, Trump makes the interview about himself rather than the history of the airplane. He boasts that he canceled the original $4bn contract for purpose-built 747s and alleged he saved more than $1bn in renegotiating the contract. NatGeo reports that the current project will cost $5.3bn. Trump also boasts about his redesigned livery.

The Biden Administration hasn’t said whether it will retain the Trump livery or the iconic design created by the famous Raymond Loewy and overseen by Jackie Kennedy. This powder-blue livery adorned every Air Force One since 1962.

Two years of flight testing will begin after the conversion of these civilian airliners. Entry-into-service is slated for 2024, the last year of President Biden’s first term.

For a comprehensive history of Air Force One, see The Flying White House, by J. F. ter Horst and Col. Ralph Albertazzie. The latter was captain of Air Force One for years. Published in 1979, there are some copies available one Amazon.

97 Comments on “Pontifications: The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress

  1. Not sure that any defense is possible against an incoming hypersonic missile, but I suppose the NatGeo documentary won’t be discussing that particular problem.

    • Only dictators are “irreplaceable” and need utmost protection 🙂

      For a working democracy administration staff is replaceable and the protection is massively overdone.

        • Its not just AF1. Its the fleet of V-92 (incoming) V-22, Helicopters etc, spending tens of billions for an extreme low probability event.

          That is the problem for group speak, you wind up with this mess.

          Yes we not only would we have survived the loss of a president and in the case of a nuclear exchange, would it make any damned difference?

          Bryce: Hypersonic is not setup to target aircraft but you are right, I am sure that is the next gadget we put on the AF1 fleet.

          Now, what to do about Space Aliens and Meteor strikes?

          • Let’s have fewer anti Trump interjections and comments. It detracts from the professionalism of the article.

      • I would agree not “irreplaceable” but such an attack would create chaos and hamper our ability to respond to whatever threat caused it. I’d say 9/11 was the closest we ever came to using those defenses, wasn’t GWB lifted airborne in AF1 as the country figured out what was happening?

        • Seeing as George W. Bush was at an elementary school in Florida when the Twin Towers were struck, he had to get on a plane anyway in order to get back to DC. His plane subsequently landed at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana so that he could try to take stock of the situation on the ground. While in the air, his plane had an escort of fighter jets.
          Accordingly: any plane with basic communication possibilities would have sufficed — it didn’t necessarily have to be a “flying fortress”.

          • Bryce blathered:
            “Accordingly: any plane with basic communication possibilities would have sufficed — it didn’t necessarily have to be a “flying fortress”.”

            Illogical! You don’t integrate.

  2. Another 40 or so similar projects and we can save Boeing. No one gives Trump credit for his foresight.

  3. Thanks Scott. I hope the Kennedy livery is retained, it’s become iconic and is recognized around the world. Trump wanted to put his stamp on it. The claim about the $1 billion cut was also false, as shown in contract documents.

    Another change for this series is elimination of aerial refueling. It had never been used in practice, and was a cost reduction, some say by Trump.

    The Wright-Pat museum has a collection of former Air Force One aircraft, you can walk through them, although surrounded by plexiglass. Really interesting, especially how small and cramped they were in the days of Roosevelt and Truman. The private elevator in the back for Roosevelt’s wheelchair is a forerunner of service elevators on modern aircraft.

    Once while touring the Kennedy era aircraft, the person next to me had a panic attack (claustrophobic) and the line of people had to be evacuated in both directions. The museum guards said it happens quite a bit.

    • Trump has never demonstrated any sense of taste, the new livery is particularly horrible.

      • Ken – you’re seriously off message. Not lies: alternative facts, according to Mrs Conway…

    • The Museum of Flight has the very first 707 AF One, SAM 970. This was LBJ’s plane at Dallas….

    • Appears someone talked sense into Donald Trump about equipment for the B747 for POTUS.

      Aerial refuelling is a good capability, some scenarios envision need, though there are the little known US command post airplanes.

      Some TW__s herein ignore launch command need.

      Some capabilities were decommissioned after the collapse of the USSR – such as ability to command missile launch from a radio on a missile, but evil still exists in the world, just different names on the enemies. Peaceniks, who are mostly neo-Marxists, don’t recognize the need to defend against initiation of force.

      US submarines are out there hiding, some operating from a base to the south of Scott and one big waterway over.
      Israel probably has submarines, probably equipped with cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, it’s a M.A.D. situation against Iran. (Cruise missiles probably being better for the short ranges needed.)

  4. An interesting story I heard, is that the planes actually make some money for the Government because of the many media people World wide that travel on da-plane! covering The President are actually charged for their ride.

    Maybe in five years they’ll use the new Boeing B797 – NMA – NSA, to replace the two B757 that schlep around the VP and the Secretary of State? It would be a great selling point for marketing the plane, too. I’d hate to see our dignitaries flying on a A321XLR, unless it was made in Mobile.

    • Why not just use a 737-MAX9?
      After all, Boeing is pitching that as being an answer to the A321, and its range is between that of a 757-200 and a 757-300.
      Or perhaps the WH doesn’t consider the MAX9 to be safe enough to carry dignitaries…? 😉

      • @Bryce


        A great idea – it would really sell the plane to China if Biden flew to Beijing in one and left it as a goodwill present

    • “I’d hate to see our dignitaries flying on a A321XLR, unless it was made in Mobile.”
      I’d say building an A321XLR in Mobile would not be a problem for Airbus to get that contract. That said… I’m sceptical it’s likely to happen, at least if Boeing has something equivalent in their portfolio.

      And in all fairness, I (as a European from one of the four main Airbus countries) would be a bit irritated if my government ordered a 787 over an A350. That said – my government has a bunch of Bombardier Global 5000/6000, so they do buy abroad, too – but not for the more flagship-py planes.

      • Airbus was RFQed for the AF1 replacement.
        They declined ( and no access to A380 design data basis either )

    • The Feds have 737-700s right now at their disposal. Now, they’re extended range and they might be attached to different branches of the military. I think technically, Air Force One planes, are attached to the US Air Force. All these planes have to be pretty low on cycles.

      • Yea, US has more personal planes for brass than most air forces have aircraft.

        Some is legit and some is ever tom, dick and harry Admiral or General is a king unto themselves.

        • You would have to be a Unified Combat Commander to get your own plane, theres only 11 of those
          The rest would be the individual service heads , including Coast Guard and national Guard.
          Theres also a fleet of small business jets, mostly C-38/G100 or C-21/Lear35 that can be used for medical or ‘urgent business’

        • Um, the B737s operated by US military branches are utility aircraft used for priority cargo and pax.

          Current ones are B737-700, USN’s are C – that’s Combi as in having a big cargo door, USN calls theirs C-40A Clipper.

          The B737s replaced DC9s, called C9s.

          US military branches operate other cargo airplanes based on airliners, not just airlifters like C-130/C41/C5/c17, and charter many flights by commercial carriers. (And USN has fixed wing airplanes to deliver priority cargo and personnel to aircraft carriers, such as a wide-body version of the E-2C Hawkeye radar airplane. And may use V-22 tilt-rotor machines now.)

          Read up!

          As for quantity of aircraft operated by the US government, aside from military-specific ones, the US has long had a large military. Donald Trump worked to get other countries to carry more of the load of defending themselves, some NATO members have ponied up in theory.

      • The 737s, some named C-40s, are utility airplanes – Combis.

        Probably used quite a bit to fly personnel and priority supplies around for the military and sometimes Executive branches.

    • They are looking into a common civilian C-32/E-6/E-4 replacement. That could be a 767 derivative from the militarization of the KC-46, with 787 flight deck. A similar idea was considered before with the E-10, but cancelled.

      Industry solicitations will begin this year, should be interesting to see what develops. If the 797 was far enough along, it might be considered, but that may be a big if.

      • The E-10 wasnt a’transport’ proposal, it was ‘behind the front lines’ radar scanning plane to replace Awacs and the Joint stars based 707s.
        Clearly the choice- once the battles over funding are resolved- will be a version of the militarized 767-2C airframe used for the KC-46, anything bigger might restrict the number of airports it can use.
        Boeing would probably ‘like’ a considerable order from the USAF for its NMA early on, but its left it too late and would be too close in capability to the KC-46. A follow on order for tankers specifies requires an in production tanker , which the NMA wouldnt be

        • The E-10 program was similar to the current C-32 replacement study, in that it was envisioned to include 3 different forms of the same basic airframe, for commonality. And in that the airframe involved was the 767.

    • ” .. is that the planes actually make some money ..”

      AF1 doesn’t fly alone.
      There is a convoy of support craft involved too.
      ( like C-17 bringing the Beast and its replacement, lots of personnel … )
      Support from journos paying their way should present as a microscopic gain.

    • no, they don’t even come close to making money. journalists pay the cost of a comparable commercial flight coach ticket (for what is basically a first class seat). call it 20 journalists (high but possible) @ $250 round trip per (cost of a coach round trip from DC to Ft Lauderdale) that’s roughly $5k per golf outing.

      AF-1 costs roughly $200k per flight hour, so roughly $800k just for AF1 for, say, a weekend round trip in palm beach florida. now multiply that by, say, 100 trips in 4 years, and that is $80M, just for AF-1.

      every time AF-1 flies, at least 2 C-5s also fly to haul the limos, helicopters and the security detail and support staff. At roughly $100k/hr that’s another $80M.

      • According to the book Flying White House (JimmyCarter era, so really old info), journalists were charged 25%-50% more than first class air fares to fly on Air Force One.

        • I stand corrected. I assumed the rules were the same for Journos on government aircraft as for congresscritters on private aircraft owned by campaign donors….

          should have realized the corruption would only benefit those in power.

        • No corruption. Regulations are that passengers on Air Force One that do not have official state business are charged an equivalent first class fare. That includes the president & family when not used for official business.

          All passengers are charged for meals served on Air Force One. But reporting is the food is very good.

          If Air Force One is used for political campaign purposes, the campaign is charged the equivalent charter for a 737 BBJ. Costs are pro-rated if a trip includes both official and political stops. This determination is made by the White House, and has been the source of controversy.

          Of course the operation costs of Air Force One far exceed the amounts collected, but as that is not the fault of the travelers, the rates are based on fair commercial equivalents.

          • Rob, is it correct to assume that a presidential golfing weekend would not be counted as “official state business”?

          • Yes, in that case the president pays for personal use, family and guests, and meals, as equivalent first class fares.

          • the bar for the president’s trips being called official business is ludicrously low. one 10 minute meeting meets the bar.

            those were all “working weekends” you can be sure.

          • Whenever the president travels, it’s extremely expensive. The charging of fares, meals, or charters is never going to recoup any significant fraction of that cost. It’s really an issue of fairness so that people don’t use the privilege to avoid the equivalent consumer cost. It’s not like the people involved can’t afford those fares, or would object to them.

            Whether the president is cognizant of those costs, and respectful of the taxpayer funding of them, is the true issue. Some leisure travel is to be expected. Excessive and frequent leisure travel is harder to justify.

            When traveling domestically, the presidential livery C-32 is also used as Air Force One. The president can choose which aircraft to use. The C-32 costs about 1/5 as much per hour. But probably the entourage costs are similar, so overall, still very expensive.

          • Still cheaper than flying in DJT’s 30 year old B757 business jet I guess.

  5. Technically, the plane under discussion is only called “Air Force One” when the president is aboard it. Perhaps “US presidential plane” would be a more accurate descriptor?

    • Its military designation is VC-25 (VC-25A for the 747-200 aircraft and VC-25B for the 747-8).

  6. Off topic, but VERY relevant to the aviation industry:

    “Asia-Pacific authorities keen to defer travel until 2022”

    “Even with the rollout of vaccines, there are few signs that governments are prepared to ease up on existing testing and quarantine restrictions. In the short term, a compounding of the restrictions looks likely.
    Many outstanding questions about vaccines remain, such as their efficacy against new virus strains and ability to prevent transmission.
    For instance, Thailand’s health authorities have been cautious about adopting the World Health Organization’s vaccine passport regulation for international travel, citing a lack of proof that vaccines are completely effective in stemming virus transmission.”

    “Predictions for an uptick in travel that were made at the end of 2020, as vaccines began to be available, have since dimmed.
    Global airline association IATA slashed its growth projection for 2021 from 50% to a mere 13% from the dire levels in 2020, it said in a 3 February update.
    It warned of a “darker” near-term outlook, with the 13% increase in air traffic bringing overall levels to just 38% of 2019’s.”

    Note: The same article is on FlightGlobal, behind a paywall.


  7. Everyone: please drop the ancillary Trump comments. The show (and my post) relates only to Trump and Air Force One.


  8. I found this interesting as Aboulafia decides the USAF will replace the KC-135 with enough KC-46 to overcome the losses.


    USAF says they are going a different direction and I have yet to see a breakdown of KC-135 type missions in non contested vs the need for a protected and or stealth tanker in a forward combat zone.

    Despite the USAF rhetoric, the KC-135R has new engines (CFM) , they have a program to monitor and fix any corrosion issues and you can upgrade the cockpits as needed.

    I have seen the KC-135 in person and they look like they just rolled out of the factory.

    Japan gets a direct revenue return form the 767, Israel would have to pay for the A330MRT if they bought it rather than get it out of the funds they get from the US.

    South Korea went with the A330MRT despite the KC-46 being far more aligned with the smaller ops area they would use it in.

    • The KC-135 problem is operational hours and mission tempo. Either a large investment is needed to sustain them, or build a more capable tanker like the KC-46, which adds 40 years of life to the program.

      The consensus reached in the article is what I’ve been saying here for some time now. The program will be profitable over time, and if the performance is good and USAF is happy, has a good shot for KC-Y/bridge tanker.

      The selection of the MRTT or KC-46 just comes down to mission definition, along with the immediate deployment benefit of the MRTT. Korea did not want to wait and the MRTT did not have a mission compatibility issue for them. If you only need a few tankers, and don’t have a large area to cover, larger is better. If you are going to distribute and move hundreds around the world with a high mission rate, mid-size is better.

      This was also the source of the conflict in the failed US tanker competition, the large vs mid-tanker deployment models. Either can be made to work, but each country needs to look at the optimum for their use. KC-46 is a step up from KC-135. MRTT is an even bigger step up.

    • ‘Negative’ Program accounting isnt the same as a cash loss on production of a particular aircraft.
      Because of delays in delivery the UASF negotiated ‘non monetary’ compenstion from Boeing – a common practice, which I would think relate to KC-135 and KC-10 maintenance, it goes into the program account pool but isnt a cash payout by Boeing.
      GAO says each KC-135 costs $10 mill per year per aircraft to maintain, plus $12 mill every 5 years for depot level work, its incredible how outdated they are.
      It takes 2-3 hr from a ‘cold start’ for a plane to be ready for takeoff on a sortie, they have trialed a ‘hot’ refueling on the ground where they dont turn off all the engines and they can be back in the air in only 40 min!

      • When the British government ordered AWACS an offset program was insisted on by public opinion.
        Turned out that Boeing managed to get away with including rolls royce engines which had already been selected by airlines as the vast majority of this “offset”.
        An awful lot of subsidy can be pumped in by “non monetary” compensation.

        • This has nothing to do with subsidy. and there is no non-monetary compensation to Boeing for the KC-46.

          The point is that if Boeing spends $10B on a $5B contract, that doesn’t necessarily result in a loss, if it also results in an improved aircraft that is more competitive, with a 40 year service life an follow-on upgrades, maintenance and support, worth $50B. Not to mention the potential for KC-Y selection.

          • “The Air Force expected to have 470 tankers in January 2018—a
            combination of KC-46, KC-135, and KC-10 aircraft—for refueling
            missions, but only had 455 of these aircraft at that time. Since no KC-46 aircraft have been delivered, the Air Force has had to use KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft at a higher rate than expected. Air Force officials negotiated non-monetary considerations from Boeing to offset the lost military tanker capacity associated with the delay..”
            Page 13 GAO KC-46 TANKER MODERNIZATION
            That was a while back and the delays have increased

          • Duke, point was that the compensation goes from Boeing to the USAF, not the reverse as a subsidy.

          • The benefit is for Boeing, thats why they use non cash compensation. Boeing often does this as I think they are able to claw it back over time and parts pricing is opaque
            My wording said ..”USAF negotiated ‘non monetary’ compensation from Boeing ” not the other way round.

          • Duke, the benefit is to the USAF, otherwise they wouldn’t agree to it. There is a net transfer of value to the USAF from Boeing. Just as for the airlines compensation for the MAX. The form of the compensation is negotiated and amenable to both sides, as would be expected.

            At my university, a large percentage of funding was provided as gifts-in-kind. Businesses donate hardware, labor, equipment, sometimes entire laboratories. The university estimates the value and treats it as cash, the business also records the donation in their books and taxes as cash.

            So the fact that it’s not actually in the form of cash, does not diminish their contribution at all, or change very much how it’s handled accounting-wise.

    • Um, TW:
      – the article is confusing, I don’t see much more than USAF reconsidering its options
      – the KC-135Rs are an old airframe, with less operational capability than the KC-46A
      – keep in mind that new flight decks are not free of capital cost
      – first priority was replacing KC-135s that had the military version of the common 707 engine, JT3D turbofans (original turbojet KC-135s having been retired I believe)
      – USAF is looking at re-engining B-52s with eight of a newer engine, being too cheap to go with four engines of 757 size (which Pratt and R-R had offered to lease them), which would require costly new pylons. Either approach would reduce need for tankers (the four-engine version could do a round trip strike into Russia without refuelling).
      – the KC-10 is needed to refuel big airplanes more efficiently, it is getting old but not nearly as old as KC-135s.

      (Tanker logistics can be large, including tankers topping off tankers and returning to a base to refill.
      Fortunately even the UK has better today than when it had to launch waves of tankers to support _one_ Vulcan striking the Falkland Islands. Tankers topping off tankers, etc. Two Vulcans launched, the most serviceable continued to the target, the other returned to the launch island in the mid-Atlantic.

      Some USAF equipment is very old, B-52s included.

      In the 1980s I was party to looking for used B707-320Cs to convert for an allied military as transport and tanker additions to its fleet. But we found prices high because USAF was buying them to cannibalize to get the turbofan engines and the better yaw damper and tail structure to upgrade some KC-135s.

    • Difference is that USAF missions are often deep into hostile territory, well behind the front lines. This is the only practical means to get any survivors out.

      The Army & Marines already rely extensively on helicopters for troop positioning and rescue, which routinely operate at the front, so there is not the same need for a specialized aircraft.

    • Interesting. You are starting clean sheet, lots of cheap resources (aircraft, crews, slots) available, interest rates low.. in a certain growth market for the next 3 years. Competition will be tough though.

      • I agree with all your points, though competition may be less of an issue if you find an attractive niche that is largely overlooked by the bigger players.
        I suspect there will be more start-ups like this: the market is currently awash with cheap secondhand aircraft.

    • Flair in Canada plans to increase flights this summer, where others are reducing, cheap cheap fares unless you want to carry any baggage including into the cabin. Amazing they have survived so far, their origin did have much maintenance experience including 727s and CV580s.

      • Onshoring is the way to go … until NIMBY. Chipmakers want government subsidies to build plants, miners want handouts … the list goes on. Are these legal under WTO??

      • If xenophobes get lost, mines in Canada may supply.

        There are deposits of various ‘rare earth’ elements in northern ON, northern PQ, and near the border between PQ and Labrador.

        But massive investment in infrastructure needed, such as roads to get to the sites, except for one near the PQ-L border which is not far from the ocean to the north.

        And it such mines will take time to get into production.

        Meanwhile, a Chinese diplomat is frothing at Conservative Members of the Canadian Parliament for their criticism of Communist Chinese treatment of a Muslim sect in CC, while POUS Joe Biden seems soft on that. Treatment of the Falun Gong religious network has long been a topic in Canada.

    • Some companies were already scrambling to reduce use of certain materials in batteries, to ease shortages and lower cost.

      The book The Doomsday Myth chronicles forecast shortages that did not come to pass, even in the face of government force. Because people conserved, found alternatives, etc.

      When Nationalsozialistiche Germany disrupted supplies of latex rubber from SE Asia, US interests started plantations to grow milkweed which has a small amount of latex in it. Costly atex was superior to artificial rubbers of the day for key uses like masks, fortunately for the Brits and Dutch artificial rubber had been developed in the US whereas those countries discouraged research to keep price of latex high.

  9. There’s a podcast on Aviation Week, of an interview with the producer Scott Bateman of The Air Force One Flying Fortress special. Lots of interesting anecdotes about the history of the current aircraft, with various presidents.

    As well as the attention to detail. The crew chief distributes a deck of playing cards, hidden around the aircraft, and the inspectors have to return the full deck to the chief, to insure a thorough inspection.

    Interestingly, the contract price for the two new aircraft is $3.9B, with another $1.4B for a new hangar at Andrews, training, and documentation. Boeing has announced they take a loss on the overall project, mainly due to COVID delays which they now have to make up.


    • Smart mx crew chief.

      I presume maintenance people are chosen well, unlike the historically variable enlistees.

      One day there was a disagreement between Canadian Forces and Pacific Western over condition of parts of a 707 that PW had done structural work on. PW people would not sign off return to flight because some aspects such as some flaps were not in a condition that PW people would release for flight – CF line maintenance was not what it should have been. (I’d heard complaints about USAF line maintenance as well, at that time (circa 1980s).)

  10. I really hope that the new Air Force One retains the iconic livery developed by the father of Industrial Design, Raymond Loewy, under the supervision of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. It is this livery that makes this 747 really standout as a gleaming symbol of America wherever it lands in the world. The new livery proposed by Trump looks just like another 747 – nothing special. Just as the design of the American flag cannot be improved upon – neither can this livery. It represents America!

    • Biden has said it’s not high on his priority list, but he has a few years to consider the decision. The USAF has not committed to the new scheme yet. I too hope the traditional livery is retained.

    • @Kevin

      ‘The father of industrial design’?

      Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the first industrial designer to become famous for industrial design, via the moonshot etc

      Or at least the first in the US to do so, perhaps

      A celebrity: rather like the virus has thrown up celebrity health experts

      The two careers are different – being a celebrity is a full time job entailing a skill set which diverts/deviates the professional

      But one which is essential to celebrate the heroic patriotism best incarnated by the President and his Plane

    • Beware of the term ‘Industrial Design’, which is often confused with determining product structure and systems.

      Loewy was a very good stylist plus had a grasp of ‘usability’ as I call it, including psychological factors illustrated by his work on the crew compartment of Skylab.

      Decades ago I had some contact with a company that had used an industrial design company to design aspects of its product but had not done a good job – for example, its design of a pedal was cracking in service.

  11. Here’s an overview of 144 heads of state aircraft.


    I guess many liveries are done not to stand out, avoiding unnecessary attention. Shows may incite discussions in parliament. Opposition parties in many countries tend to have field days discussing the costs of new head of state aircraft.

    Even no so democratic Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal decided it was better to do away his A380, to avoid spotlights. BBJ’s and Gulfstreams seem popular.

    • According to the referenced article, 12 countries use the 747 as official head of state transport:

      Bahrain (2)
      Brunei Darussalam (1)
      China (4)
      Taiwan (1)
      South Korea (1)
      Kuwait (1)
      Morocco (1)
      Oman (3)
      Saudi Arabia (2)
      Turkey (1)
      UAE (5)
      US (2)

      Other large commercial transport aircraft are used by the majority of larger countries (777, 787, 767, 757, 737, A310, A319/20/21, A330, A340). Gulfstreams are used by smaller countries, or in addition to the larger aircraft.

      Also an array of smaller aircraft and helicopters are used for transport. Most have distinctive liveries or emblems denoting state officials.

        • In some cases prestige.

          Decades ago some small countries in Africa launched airlines to fly to northern Europe, gave prestige and perhaps furrin currency which is often badly needed. Probably few survived, operating an airline successfully is not easy.

      • Four?? I find only three.

        Commercial Air China B747 are used, and return to commercial service afterwards.

        Far away from dedicated purpose-built “flying fortress”.

        • There is a fourth 747-8 aircraft for which no official photos have been released, according to the article, and which was in fact purpose-converted as China’s Air Force One.

          • If you accept the article as fact, then you would be aware that the jet you referred to has not confirmed to be in service.

            Seems disingenuous to count it as the fourth one IMO.

          • Media claim that CC sent a large airliner as charter to Vancouver BC to retrieve Ms. Huawei, anticipating she would be released. Court decided otherwise, so she remains under lax house arrest in Vancouver (a nice life if it weren’t under supervision, she owns the house).

            (She the CFO of Huawei, daughter of its President, is fighting extradition from Canada to the US on charges of misleading authorities about activities of a bank subsidiary regarding dealings with Iran.
            Made the mistake of changing planes in Vancouver on the way to Mexico. Tip: look up ‘Interpol’. (She may have been travelling under a different identity, reputed to have several passports.)
            Tip: Extraditions are common both ways, Canada now has custody of a bleep whose online bullying motivated a teenager to commit suicide, thanks Holland.

            CC tried to play games recently with shipments of a vaccine to Canada, a vaccine based on technology Canada let CC use, trying to free her.

  12. China Update

    The perils of trade wars : part one: COMAC

    One day China may return the compliment paid to the B747 as airplane of choice for Presidents everywhere


    “We continue to take delivery of engines from GE Aviation at our Shanghai assembly plant and we are sitting on a big stockpile of vital parts and components sourced from abroad,” said Zhao, who oversees the C919’s aerodynamic and pneumatic designs as well as related test flights.

    He said that China’s aviation sector self-sufficiency drive has filled some of the parts gap through indigenous production and that Deputy Premer Liu He was also in the process of brokering deals between Comac and non-American firms in the West to procure key parts.
    “GE’s engines are ideal for the C919 because all designs anchored around the engine powertrain but [after the US export ban] there have been talks of using engines of the Chinese Air Force transport aircraft like the Y-20,” Zhao said.

    “Another way is to buy engines from Europe, Canada, Russia and even Brazil, from suppliers whose goodwill and business interest better dovetail with the need of the C919… we seek to sign long-term deals when we still need time to develop domestic engines that are up to the task,” Zhao said.

    • Beware of commonality of ownership and design and parts among allied countries, thus risk of violation of embargos and ITAR/EAR US regulations..

      There was a legal case involving United Technologies which owns Pratt and Whitney who make some of their engines in Canada, over allegations that some people in Pratt and Whitney had ignored or minimized potential for military use of a civilian engine produced by P&WC for a Communist Chinese project.

  13. Thanks.

    You correctly note that a unique identifier began to be used after confusion with an airline flight. Airline flights of course identify the carrier, such as Empress 836 or Cactus 724. (Well, those were cutesy for Canadian Pacific and America West, whereas Yousaaah identified the airline by name. 😉 Other aircraft use registration characters such as CF-PAB or N99JG.

    I emphasize that ‘Air Force One’ is a _flight_identifier_ for whichever fixed wing aircraft POTUS is on at the moment.

    That could be a B737 for smaller airports, even something smaller, but the B747 carries communications gear needed by the Commander-In-Chief.

    “Marine One’ is the flight identifier for whichever rotary wing aircraft POTUS is on at the moment.

    There are lesser flight identifiers for VP and First Lady.

    I do not know what flight identifiers are used overseas, where ‘Air Force’ and ‘Marine’ are non-US forces. (For example, when Donald Trump flew into Saudi Arabia then committed the traditionally no-no of flying direct to Israel. I speculate ‘USAF One’. I presume GWB’s trip to a war zone for Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner had an innocuous flight ID, the US probably controlled the sky there and had many flights, some operators like DHL also flew into war zones. IIRC GWB also flew out to a warship that was approaching the US, perhaps on a USN aircraft (they have utility aircraft doing that), I don’t recall if there is a navy flight ID for POTUS, not flown often.

    Jab: Donald Trump tried to get peace in the Middle East, featured wife and daughter in the Saudi Arabia trip IMO to make a point, nicely dressed with a bit of a nod to things like head covering though not a hat in Brit Royalty style.

    • Trivia:
      Canadian Pacific’s airliners were often named Empress (of somewhere), probably because some of Canadian Pacific Railway’s hotels were named Empress. (One in Victoria BC for example, at the southern terminus of an RR CP owned, and close to the base of Canadian Pacific Airlines in Vancouver BC .)

      The chain started basic, just to give pax a food top before dining cars became feasible, then fancier to entice people to travel by train.

      The airline came much later, created by CP from a batch of small airlines, and managed for decades by Grant McConachie who had himself been a bush pilot.

      It morphed to international flying, especially destinations that Trans-Canada Airlines did not have a monopoly on, including Amsterdam, Tokyo, Australia, and Latin America.

      A CP engineer told me at a social dinner one night that he pointed top management to the productivity of the capital in a DC-8 compared to a train, per passenger IIRC, because of its speed.

    • A courier A300 was hit by a missile inflight at Baghdad airport, the crew brought it back to the ground using the old technique of throttles that the crew of United 232 revived to get their DC-10 onto the runway at Sioux City IA after an engine burst damaged control cables.

      (The extra pilot who came forward on UA232 had practiced using throttles for some flight control, in simulators. The crew did very well but unfortunately on touchdown were in a bad phase of a long-period oscillation they could not control, so hit awkwardly resulting in many deaths.)

      I attended a talk by Captain Al Haines, about the event, the professionalism of the crew was amazing.

      After US232 the technique was being trained for, IIRC the crew of the A300 had such training.

      (Obscure history is that the crew of an airliner that was in a collision in the NE US long ago used differential throttle movement to make a potentially survivable crash landing.
      There had been a few attempts since then.)

  14. Seeing the photo of the lower front entry door, not a standard 747 feature, reminds me of [Edited] one Internet forum who criticized Donald Trump as a wimp for boarding through a belly cargo door instead of up long stairs, never mind he’d have to climb more stairs inside but at least out of weather, unless there was an elevator inside.

    That is an airstair door, as for example on the left rear main deck of most 737-200C airplanes, to make the aircraft more self-sufficient (747s have an APU), which is more secure.

    (Note the bumps projecting from the doorway, my memory of the 737 was that somehow the aft airstair door which opened outward slid vertically a bit to engage such.)

    Tidbit is that for the 2012 crash test of a 727 the crew parachuted from the tail airstair, as hijacker ‘Dan Cooper’ and probably military in SE Asia had, with the last bit of the flight under remote control. (Mexico insisted it be piloted when over inhabited areas, the US would not allow a crash test on its soil.)

    OTOH, a 767 flight test aircraft had a chute from main deck out the cargo door which would be somehow be gotten out of the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *