The presidential air transport fleet consists of two specially
configured Boeing 747-200B's -- tail numbers 28000 and 29000 --
with the Air Force designation VC-25A. When the president is
aboard either aircraft, or any Air Force aircraft, the radio call
sign is "Air Force One." Principal differences between the VC-25A and the standard
Boeing 747, other than the number of passengers carried, are the
electronic and communications equipment aboard Air Force One, its
interior configuration and furnishings, self-contained baggage
loader, front and aft air-stairs, and the capability for inflight
Accommodations for the president include an executive suite
consisting of a stateroom (with dressing room, lavatory and
shower) and the president's office. A conference/dining room is
also available for the president, his family and staff. Other
separate accommodations are provided for guests, senior staff,
Secret Service and security personnel, and the news media.
Two galleys provide up to 100 meals at one sitting. Six
passenger lavatories, including disabled access facilities, are
provided as well as a rest area and mini-galley for the aircrew.
The VC-25A also has a compartment outfitted with medical equipment
and supplies for minor medical emergencies.
These aircraft are flown by the presidential aircrew,
maintained by the Presidential Maintenance Branch, and are
assigned to Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air
Force Base, Md.
Presidential air transport began in 1944 when a
C-54 Skymaster -- the "Sacred Cow" -- was put into service for
President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then came the "Independence," a
DC-6 Liftmaster, which transported President Harry S. Truman
during the period 1947 to 1953. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
traveled aboard the "Columbine II" and "Columbine III" from 1953
to 1961. A 1953 incident where Eisenhower's aircraft was "Air
Force 8610" and an Eastern Airlines plane was "8610" created the
need to devise a unique call sign. The call sign "Air Force One"
was classified during the '50s to identify not only the
president's plane, but when he was aboard. In September 1961, it
became popularly known when it identified President John F.
Kennedy flying aboard his C-118.
In 1962, a C-137C specifically purchased for use as Air Force
One, entered into service with the tail number 26000. It is
perhaps the most widely known and most historically significant
presidential aircraft. Tail number 26000 is the aircraft that
carried President Kennedy to Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963, and returned
the body to Washington, D.C., following his assassination. Lyndon
B. Johnson was sworn into office as the 36th president on board
the aircraft at Love Field in Dallas. This fateful aircraft also
was used to return President Johnson's body to Texas following his
state funeral Jan. 24, 1973.
In 1972 President Richard M. Nixon made historic visits aboard
26000 to the People's Republic of China in February and to the
former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in May. Tail number
27000 replaced 26000 and carved its own history when it was used
to fly former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter to Cairo, Egypt,
Oct. 19, 1981, to represent the United States at the funeral of
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
The first VC-25A -- tail number 28000 -- flew as "Air Force
One" on Sept. 6, 1990, when it transported President George Bush
to Kansas, Florida and back to Washington, D.C. A second VC-25A,
tail number 29000 transported President Bill Clinton and former
Presidents Carter and Bush to Israel for the funeral of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The VC-25A will usher presidential travel
into the 21st century, upholding the proud tradition and
distinction of being known as "Air Force One."