Air Force One is the designation given any fixed-wing aircraft that carries the President of the United States. The two main aircraft that fulfill this role are the most famous planes in the world. The current aircraft, which first went into service in 1990 during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, are scheduled to be retired in the next few years. Replacing them are two new, state-of-the-art 747 jumbo jets. National Geographic has produced an hour long special about the creation of the president’s new aircraft. The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress premieres on the National Geographic channel on Monday, February 15 at 10/9c.
Franklin Roosevelt flew in the first aircraft designated specifically for a president. This Douglas VC-54 Skymaster was nicknamed the Sacred Cow by the military due to its unique nature and flew Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference. John F. Kennedy’s term saw presidential travel enter the jet age when a Boeing 707 was used as Air Force One. In fact, Jackie Kennedy selected her favorite shade of blue for the paint scheme that exists to the present day. From 1990 until today, modified Boeing 747s have served the country’s presidents. However, in 2024, the two new aircraft will be Boeing 747-8 aircraft with the most up-to-date technology.
National Geographic was provided special access to not only tour the current Air Force One aircraft, but also document how the two new aircraft are being converted into flying White Houses. This hour long special follows the classified mission to create these aircraft while providing an inside look at the cutting-edge engineering and technology that transforms the planes into top-secret command centers. This documentary also reveals, for the first time ever, the brand-new Air Force One.
Two commercial 787-8 aircraft were purchased by the government and flown to a Boeing facility in Texas to be gutted and then retrofitted with all of the necessary equipment needed for their special mission. The new Air Force One aircraft are longer and provide more interior space than the previous aircraft. Their jet engines, designed by GE with NASA technology are more powerful, more fuel efficient, and provide a flight range of an additional 1,000 miles while also being quieter. These engines have over 1 million parts each. In order to provide the greater electrical power required by Air Force One as compared to commercial airlines, new and more powerful generators were installed onto these engines.
The documentary shows how the interiors of these aircraft were completely replaced with only the original staircases remaining. As compared to the current aircraft, the new Air Force One will have a larger presidential bedroom, a state of the art medical bay able to treat just about any medical problem, and a larger galley which can actually prepare fresh cooked meals rather than reheated pre-prepared food. Even the presidential office will be modern and able to accommodate the latest tech. While much of the specs and equipment on Air Force One are classified, National Geographic explained that the new communications suite will allow the president to communicate with government and military leaders. This was an issue on 9/11/2001 when then President George W. Bush had difficulty contacting leadership while he was returning to Washington on Air Force One. The new aircraft will also has anti-missile systems for self-defense.
The New Air Force One: Flying Fortress includes interviews with many of the current crew of Air Force One from the pilots to the flight attendants as well as the people who are working to convert the new aircraft. Even the new paint scheme with red, white, and blue is shown in this documentary. While the new aircraft will undergo two years of flight trials until they are ready for service in 2024, you can see them in this interesting, informative, and entertaining special February 15 at 10/9c on the National Geographic Channel.