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Why the Future Air Force One needs to be a 747

Despite the fact four-engine passenger jets are not the most economical to operate anymore, the United States Air Force requirements for presidential transport dictates that it needs to be a four-engine jet mainly for redundancy and to be able to carry the necessary amount of people and personnel. ( More...

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Gary Bain 4
Can't believe an Air Force general would refer to ENGINES as MOTORS!!!
SSTs have notoriously narrow airframes and limited passenger capacity. The communications and defensive gear, security personnel, and White House staffers required for presidential movements renders the SST unfit for such duty.
Rich James 1
I am aware of the deficiencies of current SST designs but they too have not
Changed since the 60's whilst supersonic attack aircraft have moved
On. My comment was really about the disparity between the advances in the electronics put into the equipment and the equipment itself.
Steve Hatch 3
What! You are all forgetting the 747 is and always will be the Queen of the Sky. The most recognized airplane in the world.
So That is why the USAF looked at the A380 to replace the B742s that they were using for Air Force One/Two. Got it now..

And what they don't realize is that ANY USAF aircraft that the POTUS is on is Air Force One. Hell, Pence flew into KLAS for a speaking engagement on a USAF B737.. callsign for that was Air Force 2.
NX211 1
I don't have any problem with them requiring a 747. The need to have conference room(s), medical facilities, comm gear & personnel and of course VIP comfort virtually requires an airframe like the 747.

What I would like to know is if replacement of these 2 airframes is really necessary at this time. Yes, they are 'old' but I would think that even accounting for pure training flights the hours & cycles on both of these airframes is probably quite low..

Does anyone have these figures? Without them it's difficult to judge if it is 'time' for a replacement.
skylab72 2
General Carlton D. Everhart commander of Air Mobility Command USAF, referenced in the article has those figures.
The problem is not hours or cycles, it's parts. This is a 747-400, there are virtually zero of them flying now, and nobody makes parts for them any more. And it's millions and millions of $$ to restart production for a single part. Tooling is gone, components are obsolete, corporate knowledge has retired, etc. So you have to redesign the part with new components, build new tooling, functionally test it with other obsolete parts to make sure they play nice together, qual test it all for environmental, vib, temperature, etc. It's years of work. For each part. So you very quickly get more expensive to try to maintain the old platform rather than buy a new one.
Both Air Force 1's are made from the 747-200 model.
Todd Matthews 1
You are correct, I fat-fingered the -400. They are old planes.
Lots of B747 200/300/400 models "stored" in the desert. New & used parts ARE available
Todd Matthews 0
Used -200 Parts are available for a standard 747 in the boneyards, yes. But that plane is not a standard 747. It's EMP hardened. A standard 747-200 is not. You can't take a non-hardened part and drop it in the middle of an otherwise EMP aircraft - that's just like putting a screen door on a submarine and expecting it to still submerge.
Bernie Behling 1
That is going to depend greatly upon what part you're planning to replace. EMP isn't some magical force that destroys all that it touches that isn't "hardened". A hatch, a window, or other non-electronic or electric part isn't going to suddenly fail when exposed to an electromagnetic pulse. Electrical and electronic parts that are susceptible to damage from EMP can often be hardened against such effects, and that could be done during an overhaul of such a part.
Why not utilise a 787-10? Th four-engine rule should not be regarded anymore, as I would assume the only reason it was instilled in the first place was because that was what was needed for flights a couple decades ago to go transatlantic or over bodies of sea. We have ETOPS now, so that should not be a problem anymore, and personally, I think the 787-10 with the President/AF skin would be awesome :)
ETOPS isn't the issue. Redundancy is. With a twin engine aircraft, you can lose one engine and still be capable of flying, yes, but that puts you one step away from a single point of failure. with a quad-engine aircraft, you have 2 layers of protection in case anything occurs.

We're lucky in the US that at any point, a USAF aircraft is less than 40 minutes from any AFB, and any AFB can accommodate a B747, let alone something big like an A380. So we can easily get away with a B757 or B737 for domestic travel for the POTUS/vPOTUS. but for anything else, you'd want the quad engine variant for the dual layer of redundancy (being able to lose 3 engines before becoming a single point of failure).
Alan Hume -2
Redundancy is a moot point, Brad. Will a 747-8 fly safely and, moreover, land safely on only one engine? I think not. Two maybe, but only if they were on opposite wings.
Yes. I've seen a B744 fly and land safely on one engine. Even more so than that, I've seen it fly on one engine, which happened to be one of the test engines for the B777 when it was being tested. If there were an issue with landing on one engine, we wouldn't have ETOPS with any twin-engine aircraft.
I think the acrft must have 5 years of service before it can be considered as a possible replacement
The current VC-25s went into service during the George H.W. Bush administration, between 1988 and 1992. That puts them at 25 years old.
Tom Pera 1
seems they could use the big 747 for international flights and something smaller and more economical (767? 757?) for western hemisphere flights
The expense of moving the president is much more than the size of the airplane. The costs would be about the same whether using the B74 or a Wright Flyer.

I personally want the President in the best aircraft we can manufacture, we being Americans. I also like the iconic shape of the 747 that makes the statement "This is the American President."
They do use smaller planes on many USA flights - where the airport is too small to accommodate the 747. If I remember correctly, the plane is usually one of the Air Force's 757 VIP planes. That plane then becomes Air Force One for the flight. Problem is it cannot accommodate the entire entourage nor does it have the communications.
Neil49 1
Re: "Even the stairs, traditionally on the left side of Air Force One, will likely need to be swapped over from the right side where Boeing currently installs them."

Can someone explain this seemingly contradictory statement?
Ruger9X19 2
The current configuration for the 747 assumes the aircraft will utilize a gate on the left side at an airport so the airstairs are mounted on the right side of the fuselage. The airstair would be required to be engineered on the left side if they wanted to use left side to deplane when mobile stairs aren't available.

See page 61 Fig 5.1.1 for current position of the lower ladder.
Neil49 1
The only photos of the VC-25A I've seen show the two sets of self-contained airstairs on the LEFT side, with their respective positions as describe below, by

Thus my confusion about the mention of the forward airstairs being located on the right, to accommodate the a/c being parked at a standard gate on the left. But the presidential plane is not parked at a commercial-style gate, so there is no conflict. The illustration referenced is, of course the configuration for a civilian 747-8

Again, all the photos I've seen of the both forward and aft airstairs actually in use show them on the left side of the a/c.
Ruger9X19 2
Well, wanting them on the left to match the current VC-25 would require a redesign from the current configuration 747-8 configuration. Not sure what the issue is with the statement.

The sentence could be rewritten "Even the stairs, currently on the left side of the VC-25, will likely need to be swapped over from the right side where Boeing currently installs them on the 747-8."
30west 1

Checkout the pictures of AF1 at Bagram Air Base during 44's visit a few years back and you can see the location of the airstairs. The current VC-25A used as Air Force One has the VIP airstairs located on the right side (not left side) of the lower fuselage forward of the right wing root and aft of the Presidential Seal. I believe there is also another airstair on the left aft portion of the lower fuselage for the "straphangers" to use, but I didn't look for pictures of it.
skylab72 1
Form follows function. AF1 is not one aircraft. Varying AF1 missions require varying aircraft to perform them. The requirements for the most common AF1 mission include a degree of flexibility that a 747 fits best. DJT neither understands aviation technology not the realities of procurement. Not saying the system is perfect just existent, and the "ideal" AF1 aircraft will always be a pipe-dream...
Bill Babis 1
I see I'm not winning many converts with my SST idea. I guess I need to find the "Why the future Air Force One needs to be an SST" squawk. We are talking the future here. Sooner or later AF1 WILL be a three or four engine SST. All I'm say'n is let's make it sooner. After all, we can do anything we set our minds to.
matt jensen 1
If he needs to a B1B will work
sparkie624 1
The plane must be a US Plane and Must be 4 Engines... 747 is the only plane for the bill at what ever the cost will be...
C-17 Globemaster III?
Loyd Enochs 1
Is that airframe still in production? If not, the cost to retool would likely be prohibitive.
Sam Johnson -6
Because as far as our government is concerned money grows on trees. Cost and expense has nothing to do with it. The only person who thinks differently is our present president. He is attempting to run it like a business and look at what most of the morons think of him.
Still think C-17, it can land where a 747 could never consider. It would also cut these expensive short hops. The POTUS does not need a palace.
skylab72 2
Wow be careful, you might actually reduce our taxes!
Rich James 0
It is still the finest passenger jet in the sky. I cannot help womdering in current technological times why supersonic transport is not available to Air Force One? Withnthe regular trips to Europe, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, South America, cutting jet lag and time in the air would seem to make sense. So for now same speed as 1969/70.
Bill Babis -8
Too big, too easy of a target on the ground and in the air. It's amazing to me that we have had supersonic capability for 70 years and no thought of a supersonic AF1. As quick as AF1 went from props to jets when they became available, the transition to supersonic is way overdue.
But it's prohibited to fly supersonic over land. So seems like it wouldn't be useful. Even the current VC-25's can fly fast for their size. Imagine what the more efficient and stronger engines on the 747-8 could do.
The Govt. won't be prohibited.
Bill Babis -1
That problem is being addressed both aerodynamic and technical wise with much progress. Plus, one little executive order, which seams to be the craze these days, and no more prohibition. BOOM!
matt jensen 3
XB70 still in the rack at WP
Bill Babis 0
I like the way you think! Hard to believe that plane flew over 50 years ago but restored, upgraded, and fresh painted with a shinny new AF1 paint job. How cool would that be sitting on the ramp in the background of a presidential photo-op?
Tom Pera 3
would cost 2-3 billion...wait...if the Air Force is involved would cost 4-5 billion
skylab72 3
The laws of physics do not change. Regardless how "cool" an SST AF1 might be, or how "inevitable" some aircraft capable of supersonic flight, on occasion carrying the call sign AF1 might be, the primary AF1 mission has efficiency and capacity requirements that preclude continuous supersonic flight for the foreseeable future.
linbb -1
Wouldn't work for many reasons four engiens is a must on this size of AC. Don't really expect you would understand after the surper sonic comment tho.
A new SST whip won't be bad, Concorde had 4 engines...
Bill Babis 0
That is exactly my point. It is the size that needs to be rethought. Presidents don't seem to have a problem riding on Marine One and Gulfstream size is one heck of a step above that. As far as number of engines, put on as many as you want. The president would then get there fast and in style. The support fleet with the limos and press corps will still be there a day early anyway.
Marine One is used only for short haul movements, and is accompanied by other defensive aircraft. Most personnel (dozens) travel to Andrews or other LZs independent of Marine One.
Rich James 1
Surely the issue is the development thrust for civilian pax equipment is purely cost reduction and efficiency as this is the most important factor for airlines. Fighter jets have different customers with very different needs. Result, Supersonic fighters have progressed a long way since 1969 but SST Pax equipment has not. Indeed the 748i is not selling in the necessary numbers and demand for the A380 has dried up considerably even with the Middle East Carriers. I am sure there are solutions to most problems which a Supersonic Air Force One would encounter but the development costs for a completely new SST able to meet the AF 1 reqs would be unaffordable applied to only two aircraft. Would they even be allowed to sell them to China, the Middle East or Russia?
matt jensen -3
The only reason besides having four engines, ability to refuel in the air IS to haul the MSM press around. Granted they pay something towards the meals and maybe mileage. Does any POTUS really need them?


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