The mission of the VC-25A aircraft -- Air Force One -- is to provide air transport for the president of the United States. 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 refueling. The VC-25A is capable of flying half way around the world without refueling and can accommodate more than 70 passengers.
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.
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".
VC-25 aircraft are extensively modified B-747-200s with the basic airframe technology of the 1960s. The aircraft incorporates state-of-the-art avionics and communications equipment with Stage III compliant engines. Boeing is currently delivering B-747s throughout the world, so the logistics support base appears secure for the foreseeable future. With the continuing march of technology and the prestige attached to the U.S. Presidential airlift fleet, Air Force plans recommend a system review date of 2010. At this point, the aircraft will have been in service 20 years, and commercial operators will have retired their B-747-200s counterparts from front-line service.
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.
Air Force One is managed by Tinker Air Force Base personnel from the Contractor Logistics Support Management Directorate. Tinker has managed Air Force One since the airplanes were originally delivered back in 1990. The directorate manages Air Force One's day-to-day issues like supply and logistics support, while at the same time ensuring the aircraft are maintained to Federal Aviation Administration regulatory standards. This support also includes engineering and technical support, production management, modification management, budget management and contracting. Programmed Depot Maintenance [PDM] is also managed by this directorate, but the work is contracted out to Boeing's Wichita, Kan., facility. PDM is performed on one of the two Air Force One aircraft every year. To comply with a recent FAA mandate, one aircraft was updated with a new Fuel Quantity Indicating System.
Heavy maintenance, completed on that aircraft in December 2000, included installation of the Global Positioning System and Flight Management Computer System. These systems were added as part of increasing FAA mandates to help make the aircraft more efficient. The second Air Force One aircraft was compliant with the FAA mandate when it rolled out of PDM later in 2001. In the wake of the TWA Flight 800 explosion, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board issued an Airworthiness Directive requiring anyone who maintains a 747 install a new FQIS with safety provisions that resulted from the TWA 800 investigation.
In the early 1990s Air Force One was secretly outfitted with a directed infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) system to protect it from a missile attack. According to some reports, the plane can also eject flares to throw heat-seeking missiles off course.