How It Works

What’s on board Air Force One?

Air Force One is the call sign used to designate aircraft specially fitted out to carry the president of the United States while on official business. Currently two planes carry the Air Force One name – both customised versions of the Boeing VC-25A jetliner that have been in service since 1990.

President Obama, aboard AF1 with his pooch, Bo

 

Appearing like a standard airliner on the outside, Air Force One is in fact an incredibly complex aircraft, decked out with a number of hi-tech facilities that make it suitable for carrying arguably the most powerful person on the planet. Over its 372 square metres (4,000 square feet) of floor space, these include a surgery-class medical bay, a communications suite that can act as a command centre for military operations, plus a fully equipped office with satellite phone and wireless internet connection. There is also a hotel-style presidential suite capable of housing the First Family with ease, a press cabin for resident photographers and journalists, a large conference room, as well as a series of other cabins for guests, flight staff and security.

 
Air Force One is powered by four General Electric CF6-80C2B1F turbofan jet engines, which each deliver a substantial thrust of around 25,500 kilograms-force (56,200 pounds- force). Together, these grant Air Force One a maximum speed of 1,014 kilometres (630 miles) per hour, which, when combined with its cavernous fuel tanks, allow the president and retinue to travel anywhere within a 12,550-kilometre (7,800-mile) range fairly rapidly and without having to refuel. If for any reason Air Force One needed to remain airborne past that distance – for example, in the event of nuclear war – then a fuel top-up can be handled during flight, as the VC-25A has a refuelling receptacle built in.
There are over 85 telephones and multi- frequency radios on board, with a staggering 383 kilometres (238 miles) of electrical wiring connecting all the various systems. Both the flight deck and communications centre, as well as every other electrical system on the aircraft, are electromagnetically shielded to prevent them from being taken out by electromagnetic pulses generated by a nuclear blast.