The Next Air Force One - Replacing the President's First Plane
Earlier this month, the U.S. Air Force began seeking contractors that will build the next generation of Air Force Ones, scheduled to take to the skies starting in 2017. There is more at stake than just money: building airplanes that carry heads of state is the ultimate in bragging rights for a manufacturer. Like the present-day presidential aircraft, a pair of modified 747-200s, the next jumbo jets in the presidential fleet will most likely be based on familiar civilian planes such as Boeing's 747-400 or 747-8 or the Airbus A350 or A380. Despite appearances, Air Force One is nothing like a civilian plane. The request for information put out by the Air Force hints at some of the engineering issues involved. Modifications (many of which are top-secret, like countermeasures against anti-aircraft missiles and communications gear) make it the single most recognizable and talked-about airplane in the world. "This is the Taj Mahal in the air," says Von Hardesty, author of Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency. "It embodies the United States of America."
From the Oct. 2009 issue of Popular Mechanics.