Air Force One’s Astonishing Secrets

By: Lauren Wurth | Published: Oct 18, 2023

Air Force One is the aircraft that carries the President of the United States (POTUS). So we can imagine that it is a super secure, totally decked-out airplane with all sorts of amenities for the President, his staff, and his family. 

You might have read about it online, but what you still need to read are the facts we’re not supposed to know. Happily for us, a few Presidents have let fascinating facts slip out, giving us more information than is allowed, some of which may truly shock you.

Zipping through the Sky

Air Force One can fly more than 700 miles per hour, which is above average and much faster than a commercial airplane. However, during an emergency, the aircraft can take him or her from one edge of the world to another in minutes. And while most commercial jets fly about 35,000 feet in the air, Air Force One can reach 45,000 feet.  


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Its usual speed is about 600 miles per hour, and to compare, the average speed of an F-16 fighter jet flight speed is slower!   

Fill 'er Up, Please

Air Force One has its own gas station in the sky, allowing it to go wherever it needs to and stay in the air without landing indefinitely. One can imagine situations where the President’s safety is in jeopardy if he lands, so this feature is essential.


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For refueling, the refueling plane simply hovers above it, lowers its hose, and hooks it to the Air Force One gas tank. In addition, the plan is not dependent on fossil fuels. Believe it or not, cooking oil from the Capitol building is collected for use as the plane’s biofuel.  

Mr. President, Do You Have a Reservation? 

Air Force One has two Michelin-level restaurants on board, fully stocked and prepared for long flights if necessary. The prize-winning chefs of the airplane’s two kitchens manage the huge staff of 100 easily – they are highly experienced and chosen from the top professionals in the country. The staff is constantly busy preparing meals for the many passengers who accompany POTUS.    



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The chefs create each meal to satisfy the President’s appetite and preferences. And each plate used on the plane is stamped with the Presidential seal.

Close to 100 Phones

Gladly, POTUS doesn’t have to wait in line to find a free phone. More than 85 Air Force One phones are available for him or her; a few are secure lines.  


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The President only uses the Airborne Executive Phone, which can make both secure and non-secure calls and offers security for any access. In addition, that phone has an indicator to show that the line is secure.

The Wheels are Watching

We tend to think that high-level technology has been available only in the last several decades. However, as early as 1959,  President Eisenhower ordered then-CIA Director Allen Dulles to install spy cameras in Air Force One’s wheel wells.  


Dulles ordered the CIA to go above and beyond regarding the security of POTUS. Instead of simple cameras, the agency installed a powerful device to read license plates from 30,000 feet in the air. Some aviation experts believe Air Force one also carries technologically-advanced sky-to-ground cameras in its underbelly.


Do You Have A Frequent Flyer Account?

Air Force One also transports the members of the President’s family. The first family travels with the Secret Service to ensure their safety and security.  



Staff and journalists also join in on some trips. However, they rarely ride near the President but have assigned space near the rear of the aircraft. Most of us would gladly grab a seat in the cargo hold if we got to ride with POTUS. 


This is One Big Plane

Air Force One is about 4,000 square feet, the size of a large home. The President’s Oval Office in the Sky includes a conference room and, of course, a private lavatory.  


If special guests are on board, there are also guest rooms. Usually, the President’s senior advisors, members of the Secret Service, and other senior officials are given their own accommodations. Also, there are times when there is so much cargo that an extra cargo plane accompanies Air Force One. We imagine this happens when POTUS travels to a remote location, not because he is taking too many clothing changes.  


Want to Go Standby?

If you’re thinking of hitching a ride on Air Force One, you may have to go on standby. There is only seating for about 70 people. With all of the rooms and service areas, the seating is quite limited. Technically hundreds more could board, but they would have to stand- and that’s not entirely safe.

The plane’s most comfortable seating area is reserved for the President and his family. The 26-member crew also has a seating section. Most importantly, Air Force One is a secure, comfortable ride so that the U.S.’s most important citizen can travel while continuing to carry out his duties.


How Much Does It Cost To Operate Air Force One?

The approximate cost for flying Air Force One is $206,000 per hour. Compared to the cost of flying a regular commercial plane (around $20,000), the price is simply staggering. Still, the security needs of the President do justify the high cost.

The costs for carrying President Trump totaled $10 million during his first month in the position. However, the United States Air Force revealed that for the 2021 Fiscal Year, the cost of operating the aircraft decreased by $177,843.


The Department Of Homeland Security Began In Air Force One

It was on Air Force One when President George W. Bush signed into existence the Department of Homeland Security. At the time, Bush was flying through Germany’s airspace, and the September 11 attacks had only just occurred. The terror attacks were the main driving force behind his decision.

This airborne decision permanently changed the country’s inner workings. Specifically, Homeland Security was created to ensure that America remained safe and protected from acts of terrorism. The department aims to minimize the country’s vulnerability to attacks.


Air Force One Cannot Be Nuked

The powers of Air Force One cannot be underestimated. The aircraft can literally withstand a nuclear explosion, whether in the air or on the ground. It has gone through multiple tests to ensure it is capable of surviving a nuclear attack.

The plane’s capacity to withstand a nuclear attack was almost tested for real after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that his country’s nuclear powers would be placed on high alert. Air Force One immediately engaged on a brief training mission accompanied by jets designed to identify ballistic missiles.


Air Force One Has Everything The President Needs

Anytime the President arrives in a specific location, the airport where Air Force One is to be lodged is made aware well in advance. The air space is then cleared at least an hour prior to the arrival of the President.

Once it lands, the aircraft is contained and isolated. Any outside services are not necessary, and the POTUS is immediately transferred to “The Beast” – a Cadillac One ground vehicle. Contrary to popular belief, Air Force One has no escape hatch.


13. Is There A Hospital On Air Force One?

Just in case someone gets sick while on board Air Force One, the aircraft has a well-equipped hospital. The mini-hospital is staffed 24/7 by a medical doctor. You never know when the POTUS or his staff might need immediate first aid. Air sickness clearly isn’t an issue on Air Force One!

There is also a functional operating room on Air Force One that can double as a medical suite. The aircraft cannot fly without a doctor on board, as that simply wouldn’t be the safest option for the president.


Air Force One Was Styled By Jackie Kennedy 

The style of Air Force One was influenced by former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. The carpet and china seen on the aircraft were based on her tastes, and it was Jackie who personally picked its silverware, crystal, and furnishings.

Jackie Kennedy’s original decor can be seen at the USAF Museum located in Dayton, Ohio. Air Force One’s current style is considered a design classic as it harkens back to the 1960s when JFK and one of the industrial design fathers, Raymond Loewy, collaborated to make the plane look elegant.


Air Force One Is A Working Command Center In The Sky

All the communications gear on Air Force One is superb and top-notch. Its satellite communications networks are excellent, and its defensive strategies are 100% classified. Its features not only help protect the aircraft but are also capable of initiating an attack.

Technically, POTUS has an able and ready mobile command center he can use whichever way he prefers. Air Force One’s electronics are hardened to shield them from any form of electromagnetic pulse. This allows the President to respond immediately in case of an attack.


Jelly Beans Were Mandatory On Air Force One

United States President Ronald Reagan’s unique quirk was his sweet tooth. He liked to eat lots of jelly beans. Due to his preference for these treats, Air Force One made sure there was always a jar of jellybeans available on the aircraft.

What got the President hooked on these candies was his experience of touring the White House when he was a child. According to Reagan, during the tour, a nice man handed him jelly beans. It was then that he realized that jelly beans were more than just simple treats. He believed they represented America’s greatness and uniqueness.


There Is More Than One Air Force One

There are actually two Air Force Ones. However, only one of these is the authentic aircraft. The two fly together in order to make it difficult for anyone to know on which plane the President is in. The C-20C, also known as The Gulfstream, can be seen in this image, yet the government continually denies it exists.


We hear the Vice President is able to use Air Force Two, and if the President needs to travel by sea, there is also a vehicle called Marine One.


Broccoli Is Not Allowed On Air Force One

It was President George H. W. Bush who banned broccoli not just from the White House but also from Air Force One. He even ordered the presidential chefs to ensure broccoli was never brought into the kitchen. Since the ban was mandated by the POTUS, everyone has to oblige.

In 1990, Bush declared to the world his hatred of the green vegetable. According to the President, he never grew out of his childish hatred for broccoli, despite his mother’s insistence that he eat it. Since he was now POTUS, no one could order him to eat it anymore, not even his wife.


Which President Smuggled Beer Into Air Force One?

President Gerald Ford had no issues with broccoli, but he did have a liking for beer. His insistence on having beer available on board Air Force One will go down in history as an outrageous request indeed. At the time, the beverage was illegal to purchase in most states, but Ford flexed his presidential powers and pulled some strings.

Prior to 1985, Coors Beer was only available in Western states. He reportedly smuggled some prior to flying back to Washington DC. Rumors were also rife that he even took the presidential aircraft out for the sole purpose of getting Coors to fill up his stash.


The Trump Force One 

When President Donald Trump held office, he was not satisfied with Air Force One. Instead, he decided to make his own presidential plane, calling it “Trump Force One.” This plane was a 757 he purchased from Microsoft’s Paul Allen. It featured the signature Trump style – gold plating and the Trump family crest. Trump claimed that his plane was a lot larger than Air Force One.

Trump also claimed that his Trump Force One possessed Rolls-Royce engines. It can accommodate 43 seated passengers. The plane was seen on the Discovery Channel and was touted as the “most luxurious jetliner” in the world.


Air Force One Has A Separate Security Plane

The United States government is not risking anything when it comes to the security of the president. To further keep the POTUS safe, it has assigned a special plane called the “Doomsday Plane,” or the E-4B. This special aircraft is designed to remain in the sky for days at a time. It is also able to escape a nuclear explosion.

Image: USAF Police Alumni Association

The specific function of the “Doomsday Plane” is to protect Air Force One. It always follows the aircraft of the POTUS wherever it may go as it aims to provide highly specialized security.


Air Force One Is A Flying Fortress

The purpose of Air Force One is not merely to transport the president to critical destinations in different parts of the world – it is also designed to secure the POTUS and all passengers.

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All its windows are gunfire-proof and heavily armored. The aircraft can also release flares in order to confuse enemy missiles. The presidential plane has a retractable staircase, meaning it doesn’t have to be dependent on airport staircases during emergencies. These are just a few of the wild security measures the plane is fitted with.


Air Force One Has Tons Of Televisions 

Air Force One possesses all the bells and whistles when it comes to security. It also features the latest television sets throughout the aircraft. There are actually twenty TVs on board, and these are strategically positioned in specific regions of the massive aircraft.


The availability of the TVs allows any passenger to view one wherever they may be on the plane. One reason for the sheer number is the presence of media and the press during trips. Even if reporters aren’t on board, the president needs to remain up-to-date with recent news and broadcasts.


Airforce One’s Maintenance Woes

A report from Live Science revealed that maintenance and repairs on Air Force One are proving difficult. The aircraft is a customized Boeing 747-200B jet, but Boeing no longer produces any 747-200 jets. So, looking for replacement parts for Air Force One is challenging.

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Plus, the planes were purchased during the Reagan administration and were only used in the 1990s by President George H.W. Bush. Consequently, spare parts had to be retrieved from old jetliners parked in the desert.


Is There A Brand New Air Force One Plane?

Too many issues began arising from the fact that the Air Force One planes are getting old. So, the US government decided to invest in new planes. During Barack Obama’s presidency, an order for two replacements was made.

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The new Air Force Ones will be based on the new Boeing 747-8 series. Both planes are estimated to cost $3 billion dollars and are being readied for probable use after 2024. We can’t wait to see what bells and whistles the brand-new presidential planes feature!


Air Force One’s Incredible Fridges

Many Americans were surprised to learn that Air Force One needed refrigerators. Of course, these are not just regular fridges as they must be strong and sturdy enough to keep 3,000 meals at a time. Given this specific requirement, such a fridge could cost $12 million.

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Boeing was eventually awarded the contract to customize and engineer fridges for the aircraft. Air Force One has to be able to feed crew members and passengers for weeks without having to resupply, hence the large size requirement.


27. 24/7 Maintenance for Air Force One

Air Force One is designed to protect one of the world’s top leaders. Therefore, it needs to be in perfect condition all the time. It must also be ready to go at any time of the day or night. In other words, there’s no rest for this beast of a plane.

Contractors keep the aircraft in pristine condition, regularly checking every inch of the plane, including the fuel and the tanks. When not in use, the entire plane is heavily guarded 24/7 by armed forces at the Andrews Air Force Base.


Air Force One Has A Wild Budget

Due to the enormity of Air Force One and the high cost to maintain it, lawmakers have been vocal in expressing their dislike for the expensive and superficial outings the presidential aircraft has been involved in (like Gerald Ford and the most expensive beer run in history).

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Defenders of the plane note that such issues will persist in each new administration. Their focus remains on the security and safety of the POTUS and on keeping the aircraft in the best possible shape.


Air Force One And The Press

The POTUS ensures he handpicks every person allowed on Air Force One. The president always travels with a big entourage composed of his senior aides, advisors, and security officers. As mentioned before, he sometimes also travels with members of the press.

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If members of the media are included on a flight, they are expected to be the “eyes and ears” of citizens. The purpose of their presence is to represent various newspapers, wire services, radio stations, news websites, and television networks.


The Beast On Land

While Air Force One was built to withstand the stresses of the sky, “The Beast” was specially made to transport the President on land. Wherever POTUS goes, so does “The Beast.” This means it must always accompany Air Force One.


“The Beast” is a Cadillac that arrives ahead of the President via a cargo plane. The vehicle allows the Secret Service to secure POTUS on land. It stands ready and waiting once Air Force One lands on any tarmac in any part of the world.


The History Of Air Force One

Air Force One has been around for decades. Its first patriarch was Franklin D Roosevelt, and during his administration, he also saw to the creation of the Presidential Pilot Office. This later became the Presidential Airlift Group in 1944.

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For fifteen years, the presidential plane was powered by propellers. It was only during JFK’s administration that a jet was purpose-built and modified to serve the needs of the POTUS. A Boeing 707 jet was utilized and customized according to the demands of the position.


Out With The Old, In With The New 

Every administration makes sure Air Force One is functioning at its best. This is key to ensuring it is ready to serve the needs of the sitting president. Ordering new parts and features to update the existing Air Force One aircraft is nothing new.

Image: The Aviationist

However, problems often occur with the technical requirements of new presidential aircraft. The constant influx of new specifications was a heavy load for the Pentagon. Fortunately, the government finally decided to use Boeing due to its reputation as the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world.


The Rules For Purchasing A New Air Force One Plane

It is the responsibility of the sitting POTUS to make Air Force One a fully functioning aircraft that will serve the needs of the position. Thus, rules were enacted to make the process of purchasing one smooth and proper.


The sitting President must ensure that the purchase was made during his second term. Doing so ensures the sitting president won’t benefit from the plane within his term. Instead, he is ordering the new aircraft to be delivered to and used by future presidents. Obama purchased a new Air Force One during his second term.


Clinton’s Costly Haircut

Technically, it was not Bill Clinton’s haircut that caused a stir on board Air Force One. It was the fact that the aircraft had to sit on the runway with its engines still running while he had said haircut. This cost a lot of money in fuel, and many people frowned upon his actions.


At the time, he was parked at LAX – one of the nation’s busiest airports – and this caused problems for other incoming and outgoing aircraft. Air traffic controllers were forced to scramble to stop other planes from landing. Passengers had to wait as POTUS finished his haircut before their plane could land or depart. Few people were supportive of this strange presidential decision.


Air Force One’s Assigned Seats

Few people ever have the privilege of flying on Air Force One. Even if you do get invited, there’s no guarantee that you will have an assigned seat. Seats on the presidential plane are limited, and the best seats are obviously reserved for the president and the first family.

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Seats on Air Force One are assigned and limited. There are specific rules each administration has with regards to who gets to sit where. Most of the seats are reserved for the press and the Secret Service.


Jazz On Air Force One

Air Force One has everything a president could need, including a DJ if the POTUS so desires. This is good news for future presidents who are very much into music. A lot of Americans think that Bill Clinton allowed a DJ into the aircraft because of his love for jazz music.

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Many have seen him play the saxophone. He has also openly expressed his love for jazz. During his time, Clinton belted out smooth jazz tones on long-haul flights, turning Air Force One into a flying jazz club.


Air Force One Is The Top Priority

There is no debate. Hands down, Air Force One is the top priority over anyone and anything else in the sky. The airspace is 100% cleared anytime the aircraft is scheduled to land.

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All other air traffic takes second priority and must remain grounded until the presidential plane has landed or taken off. Due to the critical importance of Air Force One and the way it disrupts the schedules of commercial airlines, Air Force One usually lands at military bases.


Air Force One Is Awe-Inspiring 

Simply looking at Air Force One makes people gape in awe at its size and majesty. It is impossible to mistake it for any other plane. Its gleaming surface and hand-polished exterior are a sight to behold.

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More than just your basic presidential air transport, Air Force One functions as a status symbol for the country. Its exemplary stature also represents the superb might of America’s military and economic power. This aircraft means a lot to the nation and its government.


Air Force One Is Part Of History

Air Force One became a part of history in 1974. It was August of that year when the presidency was turned over from the sitting President Richard Nixon to Gerald Ford. Upon Nixon’s resignation, he boarded Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base to go back home to California.

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It was approximately noon (EST) when the presidency was officially handed to Gerald Ford, and Air Force One – which was halfway through the transcontinental trip  – suddenly became Special Air Mission 28000.


Which President Refused To Ride On Air Force One?

Richard Nixon’s presidency was problematic from the get-go. His refusal to use Air Force One was akin to breaking one of the cardinal rules a sitting President must follow. The POTUS is required to only ever use the ultra-secure plane for air transport. However, Nixon preferred to make a political-economic statement by traveling on United Airlines.

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Nixon’s administration found his decision to be not at all prudent. The military decided to designate United Airlines as “Executive One” because it was carrying the president. This is the official designation for any civilian aircraft the sitting president decides to board.