VC-25 over Mount Rushmore.
Role Presidential transport
Manufacturer Boeing
Introduction August 23, 1990 (No. 28000)
December 23, 1990 (No. 29000)
Status Active service
Primary user United States Air Force
Produced 1986
Number built 2
Developed from Boeing 747
Registration tail codes "28000" and "29000"

The Boeing VC-25 is the designation of a United States Air Force passenger transportation aircraft, a military version of the Boeing 747 airliner. The A-model (VC-25A) is the only variant of the VC-25.

The VC-25 is most famous for its role as Air Force One, the call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. The two aircraft currently in U.S. service are highly modified versions of Boeing's 747-200B, with tail numbers 28000 and 29000. Although the Air Force One designation technically applies to the aircraft only while the President is aboard, the term is commonly applied to the VC-25s more generally. They often operate in conjunction with Marine One helicopters that ferry the President to airports in circumstances where a vehicle motorcade would be inappropriate.


By 1985, the pair of VC-137s used as the Presidential aircraft had been in service for 23 and 13 years respectively, and the USAF began searching for an eventual replacement. The Request for Proposal issued stated that the aircraft to be selected should have not less than three engines and an unrefueled range of 6,000 miles (9,700 km). Both Boeing with its 747 and McDonnell Douglas with the DC-10 were in competition to be selected, with the Boeing entry eventually selected.[1] The fabrication of the current 747s began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989). Reagan ordered two identical Boeing 747s to replace the 707 that he used for transport.[2]

Boeing VC-25 Air Force One video

The VC-25s were completed in 1986 and first flew in 1987.[3] The interior designs were created by First Lady Nancy Reagan, who used designs reminiscent of the American Southwest.[2] Problems with interior wiring for communication systems delayed delivery of the two aircraft until 1990,[3] during the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Design and configuration

While the VC-25 has three decks, like a regular Boeing 747, its 4,000 square feet (370 m²) of floor space has been reconfigured for presidential duties. Its lowest deck is mostly cargo space, carrying luggage and the onboard food supply.

The main passenger area is on the second floor or main deck.[4] There are three entrances onboard, two on the lower and one on the main deck. Typically the president boards and deplanes from the front, main deck entrance via an airstair, while journalists and other passengers enter at the lower rear door. Facilities for the press and other passengers are configured like an ordinary airliner's first-class cabin.[5]

"The White House"

President George W. Bush, Bill McGurn, Stephen Hadley and Ed Gillespie gather in the president's office aboard Air Force One en route to Bahrain in January 2008.
President Barack Obama meets with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, aboard Air Force One en route to Cleveland, Ohio, March 15, 2010.
The President and First Lady's private quarters. The couches can fold out into beds.
The conference room.
The corridor that runs down the port (left) side of the aircraft. Secret Service agents are stationed in the two chairs.

The front of the aircraft is referred to as the "White House" of the aircraft.[4] The president's executive suite includes sleeping quarters with two couches that can be converted into beds, lavatory and shower, vanity, double sink, and a private office, or the president’s "Oval Office aboard Air Force One". If necessary, the president can address the nation from the office. This capability was added after the September 11 attacks, during which the aircraft had to land at Barksdale Air Force Base in order for President George W. Bush to address the nation.[6] These offices, including the president's suite, are mostly located on the starboard (right), and a long corridor runs along the port (left) side. There is an area along the corridor for two Secret Service agents.[citation needed] The aircraft also contains a conference room, originally designed as situation room but now used for meeting with staff while traveling. This room includes a 50-inch plasma screen television which can be used for teleconferencing. The aircraft have fully equipped office areas with telecommunication systems (including 87 telephones and 19 televisions).[4]

On board the VC-25 is a medical annex, which includes a fold-out operating table, emergency medical supplies, and a well-stocked pharmacy; George W. Bush had a treadmill added to Air Force One during his term in office. Every flight is staffed by a doctor and nurse. The aircraft is self-sufficient, such as carrying all the food it will need. Meals are prepared in two galleys, which together are equipped to feed up to 100 people at a time.[4] The President gets his own menu. An area where guests sit is near the center of the aircraft, outside of the "White House".[4]

There are separate quarters for guests, senior staff, Secret Service and security personnel, and the news media located in the aft area of the main deck. Protocol states that one may wander aft of wherever one's assigned seat is, but not forward.[4] Communications equipment and the cockpit are on the upper deck. There are also secure and non-secure voice, fax and data communications facilities. [4] While the aircraft's luggage capacity is adequate to carry the belongings of the passengers, the logistics train of the President means that the aircraft must fly preceded by an aerial convoy of several cargo transports, which carry the helicopters, motorcade vehicles, and other equipment required by the presidential entourage.[4]

The VC-25A is capable of flying 7,800 miles (12,600 km)—roughly one-third the distance around the world—without refueling. It can be refuelled during flight from a tanker aircraft. The VC-25A can accommodate more than 70 passengers. Each VC-25A cost approximately US$325 million. When a VC-25 taxis to an airport's ramp for events, it comes to a stop with the port side of the aircraft facing gathered onlookers.

Operational history

The VC-25s replaced the VC-137C (a military version of the Boeing 707) as the mainstays of the Air Force One fleet. On some occasions, the VC-25s are used to transport the Vice President of the United States, for which service they adopt the callsign Air Force Two. These aircraft are maintained and operated as military operations by the Presidential Airlift Group, part of Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, based at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland.

A VC-25 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on June 16, 2004

The aircraft can also be operated as a military command center in the event of an incident such as a nuclear attack. Operational modifications include aerial refueling capability and anti-aircraft missile countermeasures. The electronics on board are connected with approximately 238 miles (383 km) of wiring, twice that of a regular 747. All wiring is covered with heavy shielding for protection from an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear attack. The aircraft also has electronic countermeasures (ECMs) to jam enemy radar, flares to avoid heat-seeking missiles, and chaff to avoid radar-guided missiles. All small arms and ammunition stores not under the physical possession of the Secret Service on board the VC-25s are stowed and secured in separate locked compartments each with a different locking mechanism by the Secret Service for added security. Many of the VC-25's other capabilities are classified for security reasons.

After a Presidential inauguration in which there is a change in office, the outgoing President is provided a flight aboard one of the VC-25A aircraft to their home destination. The aircraft is not known as Air Force One for this flight because it is not carrying the President in office. For both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, the flight was known as Special Air Mission 28000, with 28000 representing the aircraft's tail number.[7][8]

The VC-25A has also been used to transport deceased former presidents. The guest area aft of "the White House" has chairs and tables that can be removed and the casket laid in their place.[4] The remains of both Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford were transported by SAM 28000 and 29000 respectively to Washington for their state funerals, and then onto their final resting places. Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot for President George W. Bush, said, "We’ll take care of the president from basically when he’s in office to when he lays in state."[4] For the funeral of President Ronald Reagan in 2004, Tillman said that the crew converted the front of the aircraft to look the way it would have appeared when Reagan was president; President and Nancy Reagan’s Air Force One jackets were placed on the chairs to “make them feel at home”.[4] A specially designed hydraulic lifter (similar to the type used by airline catering) with the presidential seal affixed to the sides lifts the casket up to the door to enter the VC-25A. The tradition of placing the caskets inside the passenger cabin dates back to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when the crew refused to allow the president's body to be placed in the cargo hold,[9] and again during the state funeral of Lyndon B. Johnson.[10]


These aircraft are expected to be replaced as they have become less cost-effective to operate. The USAF Air Mobility Command is looking into possible replacements and press coverage suggested that the USAF would consider the Boeing 747-8 and the Airbus A380 from the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).[11] On January 7, 2009, the USAF Materiel Command issued a new Request For Proposals (RFP) for a replacement aircraft to enter service by 2017 with an additional two aircraft to follow in 2019 and 2021.[12] As of January 2009, Boeing is the only interested vendor in supplying the replacement aircraft,[13] and is reported to be exploring a 787 option also.[14] On January 28, 2009, EADS North America confirmed the company will not respond to a US Air Force Request For Information (RFI), having decided it was not in the best interests of the company to participate.[15] The National Museum of the United States Air Force, which houses a display of retired Presidential aircraft, has been informed that VC-25 #2800 will be retired no later than 2015. The airframe is quickly approaching the limits of its take-off/landing lifespan, due largely to its increased use between 2000 and 2008. During that time the two VC-25 were used almost exclusively for all presidential travel. Once retired, #2800 will be placed on display alongside President Kennedy's VC-137C SAM 26000, and other Presidential aircraft, in a planned expansion to the main museum site.


 United States

Specifications (VC-25A)

Data from Boeing BDS[16]

General characteristics


Notable appearances in media

Main article: Aircraft in fiction § Boeing 747

The VC-25 "Air Force One" is a prominent symbol of the American presidency and its power; with the White House and presidential seal, it is one of the most familiar presidential symbols. Air Force One has often appeared in popular culture and fiction, most notably as the setting of the 1997 action movie Air Force One where the aircraft had an escape pod and a parachute ramp, unlike the actual Presidential aircraft.[17]

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era


  1. ^ Thomas, H. "U.S. considers Air Force One from Airbus." Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Williams, Rudi. "Reagan Makes First, Last Flight in Jet He Ordered." United States Department of Defense, June 10, 2004. Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Jenkins 2000, pp. 55-56.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Wallace, Chris (host). "Aboard Air Force One." Fox News, November 24, 2008. Retrieved: November 28, 2008.
  5. ^ Harris, Tom. "How Air Force One Works." Retrieved: October 10, 2006.
  6. ^ Stebner, Greg (narrator). "On Board Air Force One." National Geographic Channel, January 25, 2009. Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  7. ^ Felsenthal, Carol. "When Bill Clinton Left the White House. Chicago Daily Observer, January 22, 2009. Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  8. ^ "Bush flies to Texas to begin post-presidential life." New York Times, January 20, 2009. Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  9. ^ Bernstein, Adam (April 29, 2006). "Col. James Swindal; Piloted Air Force One After Kennedy's Death". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  10. ^ Foley, Thomas (January 25, 1973). "Thousands in Washington Brave Cold to Say Goodbye to Johnson". The Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  11. ^ "US considers Airbus A380 as Air Force One and potentially a C-5 replacement". Flight Global. 17 October 2007.
  12. ^ "USAF Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) Program." USAF Material Command, January 7, 2009. Retrieved: January 8, 2009.
  13. ^ "USAF Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) Program, Interested Vendors List." USAF Materiel Command, January 7, 2009. Retrieved: January 8, 2009.
  14. ^ Butler, Amy. "Boeing Only Contender for New Air Force One." Retrieved January 28, 2009.
  15. ^ "EADS waves off bid for Air Force One replacement". Flight Global. January 28, 2009. ((cite web)): Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  16. ^ "Air Force One Technical Specs." Boeing Defense, Space and Security. Retrieved: June 26, 2009.
  17. ^ Hardesty 2003, p. 15.
  • "Air Force One Fact Sheet." United States Air Force, January 2006.
  • Albertazzie, Ralph and Jerald F. Terhorst. Flying White House: The Story of Air Force One. Book Sales, 1979. ISBN 0-698-10930-9.
  • Braun, David. Q&A: U.S. Presidential Jet Air Force One. National Geographic News, May 29, 2003.
  • Dorr, Robert F. Air Force One. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 2002. ISBN 0-7603-1055-6.
  • Hardesty, Von. Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency. Chanhassen, Minnesota: Northword Press, 2003. ISBN 1-55971-894-3.
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  • Jenkins, Dennis R. Boeing 747-100/200/300/SP (AirlinerTech Series, Vol. 6). North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2000. ISBN 1580070264.
  • "Technical Order 00-105E-9, Segment 9, Chapter 7."
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