The classic baby blue and white Air Force One exterior design is to be replaced with a more “patriotic” look in a major revamp spearheaded by Donald Trump.
The planned makeover is to be introduced on two totally new aircraft and marks the first in decades for the presidential air fleet.
“Technically, Air Force One is used to describe any Air Force aircraft carrying the president – but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the commander-in-chief,” explains the White House website.
It currently refers to one of two “highly customised Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000”, the site continues. The Air Force designation for the aircraft is VC-25A.
History of Air Force One
The “Air Force One” radio call sign was adopted in 1953 in order to avoid confusion, after a plane carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the same airspace as a commercial airliner that had the same tail code.
The first official Air Force One jet made its maiden flight carrying Eisenhower in 1959, and had a red-and-gold design, according to the BBC.
The planes are maintained and operated by the Presidential Airlift Group, which is part of the White House Military Office and was founded in 1944 by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“In 1962, President John F. Kennedy became the first president to fly in a jet specifically built for presidential use – a modified Boeing 707,” says the White House. “Over the years, several other jet aircraft have been used, with the first of the current aircraft being delivered in 1990 during the administration of President George H. W. Bush.”
What is inside Air Force One?
The aircraft interiors cover 4,000 sq ft of floor space on three levels and include an extensive presidential suite with a large office, bathroom and conference room.
Additional rooms are available for those who accompany the president, including senior advisors and members of the Secret Service and press.
There is also a medical suite that can function as an operating room, as well as two kitchen galleys that can produce meals for up to 100 people at a time.
Special security features include armoured windows.
However, during an interview with ABC News in June, Trump revealed that the “escape pod” seen on the plane in Harrison Ford film Air Force One does not exist.
How does Trump want to change the design?
Trump plans to trade in the iconic baby blue and white exterior for a patriotic red, white and blue after introducing two new jets to the fleet, both Boeing 747s.
“There’s your new Air Force One,” the president said as he held up the drawings during the ABC News interview.
Trump says that the new jets will also have a “much bigger wingspan” that the current models.
“I’m doing that for other presidents, not for me,” Trump told the New York City-based broadcaster.
“Critics note a similarity between Mr Trump’s private jet and the new aircraft design”, which was first announced last year, says the BBC.
The president had tried to take control of the way that Air Force One was managed shortly after taking power, but has had to settle for making more cosmetic changes to the aircraft.
He has negotiated a price of $3.9bn (£3.1bn) for the two new Boeing planes, which he claims represents a saving of $1.5bn (£1.2bn) for the American public, reports The Daily Telegraph.
“Boeing gave us a good deal. And we were able to take that,” Trump said.
The new planes are due for delivery in 2024 – even though Trump may no longer be in office then.
And the reaction?
Some critics have pointed out similiarities between the new design and Russia’s presidential plane, reports The Telegraph.
Others are dismayed by the prospect of losing the traditional colour scheme, which was chosen in 1962 by President Kennedy. Historian Michael Beschloss asked Axios: “Why would anyone want to discard an Air Force One design that evokes more than a half-century of American history?”
Trump himself calls the design “incredible”.
But “whether the new redesign will actually happen is uncertain. Although Trump announced his desires for a redesign last July, the plan needs congressional approval that Democratic lawmakers do not appear eager to give,” reports CNN.