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United States Presidential & VIP Aircraft, Air Force One, Marine One

Early Presidential Airplanes

In October of 1910, Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to fly in an aircraft, although he was already out of office. In the coming years, prior to World War II, overseas and cross-country presidential travel was rare. Railroads remained the safer and preferred transportation mode when the President needed to travel large distances in the United States.

VC-118A "Liftmaster" presidential aircraft, at PIMA MuseumVC-118A "Liftmaster" presidential aircraft, at the PIMA Air & Space Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to fly in an airplane while in office. The first aircraft obtained specifically for presidential travel was a Douglas Dolphin amphibian delivered in 1933 which was designated RD-2 by the US Navy. The plane remained in service as a presidential transport from 1933 until 1939. During World War II, Roosevelt traveled on the Dixie Clipper, a Pan Am-crewed Boeing 314 flying boat.

VC-54C Presidential Aircraft

During World War II, the U.S. military and Secret Service became leary of transporting the President via commercial airliner. A C-54 Skymaster was thus converted for presidential use; this aircraft, the Sacred Cow, transported President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and was subsequently used for another two years by President Harry S. Truman. This VC-54C aircraft included a sleeping area, radio telephone, and retractable elevator to discreetly lift Roosevelt in his wheelchair.

VC-118A Liftmaster in the U.S. Presidential Fleet

The C-118 is a militarized version of the Douglas DC-6 airliner. The C-118s were used primarily as passenger planes and several eventually served in the Presidential fleet. This plane served as the official Air Force One for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson before the introduction of the VC-137 fleet.

"The Columbine" presidential aircraft, Lockheed C-121 Constellation (VC-121E), at PIMA Museum"The Columbine" presidential airplane, Lockheed C-121 Constellation (VC-121E), at the PIMA Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona

VC-121E Presidential Aircraft

President Eisenhower introduced two Lockheed C-121 Constellations (VC-121E) to presidential service. These aircraft were named Columbine II and Columbine III by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower after the columbine, the official state flower of Colorado, her adopted home state. Two Aero Commanders were also acquired during the Eisenhower administration, the smallest aircraft ever to serve as Air Force One.

VC-137 Presidential Planes

The Boeing 707 and C-135 were developed in the early 1950s. Variants of the C-135 were utilized for other purposes, including presidential aircraft, such as the VC-137, also known as the C-137 Stratoliner. To supplement its VC-137s, the Air Force converted several C-135 airframes to VC-135 VIP standard models, used for staff transport within the United States.

Towards the end of Eisenhower's term in 1958, the Air Force added three Boeing 707 aircraft into presidential fleet. In October of 1962, the Air Force purchased an additional aircraft, a VC-137 designated as Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000.

Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, CaliforniaBoeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California

American industrial designer Raymond Loewy was selected to design a new livery and interiors for the VC-137 jet. He exposed the polished aluminum fuselage on the bottom side, and used two blues; a slate-blue associated with the early republic and the presidency, and a more contemporary cyan to represent the present and future.

The presidential seal was added to both sides of the fuselage near the nose, a large American flag was painted on the tail, and the sides of the aircraft read "United States of America" in all capital letters.

Eisenhower became the first president to use the VC-137 during his "Flight to Peace" Goodwill tour in December of 1959. He visited 11 Asian nations, flying 22,000 miles in 19 days.

SAM 26000 served presidents from 1962 to 1998, carrying Presidents from Kennedy to Clinton. It is on display at the Museum of the U. S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

In December of 1962, another VC-137C was added to the inventory, known as SAM 27000. Today, 27000 is on display at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

VC-25A: Today's Aircraft Used by the President of the United States

The President now flies most often on a VC-25A aircraft, a modified Boeing 747-200B. Two aircraft are used, with tail numbers 28000 and 29000.

VC-25A "Air Force One" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during visit by President George BushVC-25A "Air Force One" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during visit by President George Bush

It differs from a standard 747 in a number of areas, including the state of the art navigation, electronic and communications equipment, its interior configuration and furnishings, self-contained baggage loader, front and aft air-stairs, and the capability for in-flight refueling. It has a range of 7,800 statute miles, and fly at speeds up to 630 miles an hour at altitudes up to 45,000 feet.

The VC-25A provides 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including a suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room. The aircraft includes a medical suite that can function as an operating room, and a doctor is permanently on board. The plane’s two food preparation galleys can feed 100 people at a time.

These planes are flown by the Presidential Airlift Group, and are assigned to Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, MD.

The first VC-25A, tail number 28000, first flew as "Air Force One" on September 6, 1990, when it transported President George Bush to Kansas, Florida and back to Washington, D.C.

Boeing C-32: Today's Alternative Presidential Aircraft

C-32 Presidential Jet at takeoffC-32 Presidential Jet at takeoff

The C-32 is the military version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial airliner. While sometimes used by the President, it is most frequently used by the Vice-President as "Air Force Two", by the president's wife, cabinet members, and members of congress.

The C-32 has better short-field capacity than the VC-25, making it the plane of choice when flying to airports with runways as short as 5,000 feet, too short to handle the VC-25. It can fly 5,500 nautical miles without refueling.

The 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews AFB took delivery of two C-32 aircraft in June 1998, followed by two more in 2010 (c/n 25044 & 28160).

Air Force One and Marine One

"Air Force One" is the official air traffic control call sign of a United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President. The call sign was created after a 1953 incident during which a flight carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower entered the same airspace as a commercial airline flight using the same call sign. While the President has multiple aircraft at his disposal, the call sign is moved from plane to plane as necessary.

Marine VH-3 helicopters with the VC-25Marine VH-3 helicopters with the VC-25

The call sign "Marine One" is used when the President is flying on any aircraft of the United States Marine Corps. These aircraft are typically a helicopter operated by the Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) "Nighthawks" squadron.

The squadron currently operates a fleet of the large “White Top” VH-3D "Sea King" helicopters newer, smaller VH-60N "White Hawk” helicopters, and the “Green Top” CH-46E "Sea Knight".

Marine One is often used instead of a Presidential motorcade, which can be expensive and logistically difficult. More than 800 marines supervise the operation of the Marine One fleet, often seen on the South Lawn of the White House or at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in Maryland. At Andrews, it is sometimes used to connect to Air Force One for longer journeys.

Presidential and VIP Airplane Photos

Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000
at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000
at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California

Boeing VC-137C 27000 Presidential Jet - Entered service in December, 1972
Ended service August, 2001

Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) Tail Number 27000
Boeing VC-137C Presidential Jet - Special Air Mission (SAM) 27000 on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Simi Valley, California

Boeing VC-137B, "Freedom One", at the PIMA Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona
One of three Boeing 707-153s converted to military use, this aircraft was completed as a VC-137A by Boeing in Seattle, Washington in April 1959.
Boeing VC-137B Freedom One
Left fuselage view of the Boeing VC-137B, "Freedom One", S/N 86971 at PIMA Air & Space Museum
Boeing VC-137B Freedom One
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Right fuselage view of Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Tail section of Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing VC-137B Air Force One, S/N 86970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington
Boeing C-135 S/N 91518 at AMARG, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona
Boeing C-135 S/N 91518 at AMARG
Shown Below: C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
Construction Number C/N 18347, a Boeing C-135B-BN, was delivered to the Air Force on April 27, 1962.
It was converted to a WC-135B in June of 1965 for use by the 56th Weather Squadron.
In 1974 it was again converted, to a C-135C supporting transportation of high-level
military commanders in the Pacific realm until the early 1990s. At that time, the plane was
flown to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB for mid-term
corrosion control. However, 61-2671 was deemed too corroded to repair, and was
ultimately placed on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Nose view of the C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671 at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
C-135 Stratolifter S/N 61-2671, Construction Number C/N 18347, a Boeing C-135B-BN, on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Boeing C-135C Stratolifter S/N 61-2671, former WC-135B, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
C-135C Stratolifter S/N 61-2671, former WC-135B, at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City
C-140B Jetstar, S/N 624201, used by President Lyndon B. Johnson, restored by the Hill Aerospace Museum
C-140B Jetstar, S/N 624201, used by President Lyndon B. Johnson, restored by the Hill Aerospace Museum
Nose view, C-140B Jetstar, S/N 624201, used by President Lyndon B. Johnson, now at the Hill Aerospace Museum
C-140B Jetstar, S/N 624201, used by President Lyndon B. Johnson, restored by the Hill Aerospace Museum

USAF Photos

VC-137 Air Force One in flight - Tail Number 27000
VC-137 Air Force One in flight - Tail Number 27000
Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000, former "Air Force One"
Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000, former "Air Force One"

Photos by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corp

Marine One in flight - Sikorsky VH-3D "Sea King"
Marine One in flight - Sikorsky VH-3D "Sea King"

Other C-135 Military VIP Aircraft Photos

U.S. Strike Command's VC-135A, S/N 61-0316, Airborne Command Post, built in 1962
Photo taken at Heathrow Airport near the PanAm hangar, 1971
(Photo by Mick West, as published by Airliners.Net ... used with permission of the photographer)
U.S. Strike Command's VC-135A, S/N 61-0316, Airborne Command Post

VC-25A Air Force One Photo by the U.S. Air Force

VC-25A "Air Force One" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during visit by President George Bush
VC-25A "Air Force One" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base during visit by President George Bush

Earlier Pre-Jet Presidential Aircraft

"The Columbine" presidential aircraft, Lockheed C-121 Constellation (VC-121E), at the PIMA Air Museum
"The Columbine" presidential aircraft, Lockheed C-121 Constellation (VC-121E)
VC-118A "Liftmaster" presidential aircraft, at the PIMA Air & Space Museum
This aircraft served as the official Air Force One for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. It was the last propeller driven aircraft to be designated as the primary Presidential transport.
VC-118A "Liftmaster" presidential aircraft, at PIMA Museum
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