Air Force One is among the most recognizable symbols of the American presidency. Ready to transport the president wherever in the world he needs to travel, it is part mobile command center, part office and part hotel.
John F. Kennedy was the first president to fly in a jet built specifically for presidential use in 1962. The two planes used by President Obama today — they are interchangeable, so there is always a backup — are a pair of Boeing 747-200B wide-bodied aircraft that were first used by President George H.W. Bush. The planes are equipped with everything the president needs to fulfill his office in case of an emergency.
Each plane has about 370 square meters of floor space over three levels. There is a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is always on board. The plane’s two galleys can feed 100 people at a time. A large conference room doubles as a dining area.
There are quarters for advisers, Secret Service officers, reporters and guests. Air Force One can be refueled in midair and is equipped with advanced communications equipment.
Mechanics of the U.S. Air Force’s 89th Airlift Wing at a facility 10 miles from the White House maintain the jumbo aircraft. The planes are spotless; they get hand-waxed at least once a week inside a tightly guarded hangar.
Several cargo planes typically fly ahead of Air Force One with presidential limousines, Secret Service vans and sometimes a dismantled Marine One helicopter.