US presidents have travelled in Boeings since 1943 but John F. Kennedy was the first to fly in a purpose-built aircraft, a Boeing 707. The current fleet is made up of 747-200B series aircraft that first came into service in 1990.
The US Air Force announced in January 2015 that these would be replaced with two 747-8s, with $2.87 billion set aside for the project between now and 2021, according to budget documents.
About today’s Air Force One planes
- The current 747-200Bs now in service has around 370 square metres of interior floor space which includes a presidential suite complete with office, bed, gym, lavatory and conference room.
- A second office also doubles as a medical operating room.
- There is also a dining room as well as separate sections of the plane for presidential staff, security teams and the press.
- The aircraft have a flying range of 6,735 nautical miles but is capable of refuelling in midair.
- Armour plating ensures the plane can withstand a nuclear blast on the ground.
- All windows are made of bullet-proof armoured glass.
- Electric defence systems jam enemy radar and confuse missiles, while mirror ball defences hidden in the wings can overcome infrared guidance systems.
- Onboard electronics and communications are designed to withstand electromagnetic pulses.
- The White House says the aircraft is designed to allow it “to function as a mobile command center in the event of an attack on the United States.”
About the new 747-8 versions
- The 747-8 will a range of 7,730 nautical miles, or around 1,000 nautical miles further than the 747-200B.
- With a speed of .855 mach, the 747-8 is the fastest commercial aircraft in the world. The outgoing Air Force One planes have a top speed of .84 mach.
- The new planes will be 76.25 metres long, compared to the 70.6 metres of the 747-200B.
- Wingspan will be 68.4 metres, compared to 59.6 metres.