The Air Force One aircraft refers to any aircraft of the U.S. Air Forces which is carrying the current president of the United States. Strictly speaking, the radio call sign “Air Force One” can be adopted by any Air Force plane just as long as the current U.S. president is aboard it. Besides flying the president, these planes are also used to transport government dignitaries and guests, and as such, the utmost convenience and comfort should be given to them at all times. The entire middle level of the aircrafts contains accommodations for as many as 70 passengers, including up to 30 crew members. There are various seating and work areas for media representatives, security and military staff, and various guests. A conference hall / dining room is also found in that area, as well as an in-flight pharmacy and emergency medical bay. For the president, a special suite is located in the forward area of the plane, where it is most quiet, and includes an office, bedroom, and guest area.
Ever since its inception in January of 1943, each and every American president has flown in these specially designed planes. The first president who ever got in one was Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the plane itself was a Boeing 314 Clipper flying boat. This was in the midst of World War II, and Roosevelt took the plane to the Casablanca Conference in Morocco during that time.
A few years later, still in the midst of war, the U.S. Army Air Forces took hold of a Douglas C-54 Skymaster airplane and retrofitted it to be specially customized for presidential use. The plane’s official designation was VC-54A, with the codename “Air Force One”, and a few of its major facilities include a conference room, a stateroom, bullet-proof picture windows, and even an elevator inside the plane for wheelchair-bound presidents such as Roosevelt.
The next president, Harry S. Truman, replaced the VC-54C with a modified C-118 Liftmaster, which had a distinctive exterior, as its nose was painted head like the head of a bald eagle. The next president, Eisenhower, introduced four propeller-driven aircraft into presidential service. These were two Lockheed C-121 Constellations, and two Aero Commanders. The C-121 Constellation, nicknamed Columbine II, was the first aircraft to bear the call sign Air Force One.
After the C-121s, Boeing 7-series planes were used as presidential aircraft. These include Boeing 707-120s, or more commonly known as VC-137s, which were used by Eisenhower, Kennedy, until President Nixon. These planes were also known as “SAM”, or “Special Air Mission” planes, and were designated SAM 26000 and 27000.
The current planes being used are Boeing 747-200B jumbo jets which bear the tail numbers 28000 and 29000. These planes carry the Air Force designation VC-25A and were commissioned for presidential use in 1991, having been in service since then. Aside from the fully custom-made interior space, these are veritable command centers in the sky. Each plane is equipped with classified security and defense systems, and even has countermeasures to protect it against the debilitating electromagnetic pulse of a nearby nuclear explosion or EMP device. On the upper level of the aircraft, a fully functional telecommunications center was built and is always in contact with numerous ground stations and satellites at any time of its flight. It’s as if the full functionality of the White House itself was crammed into the insides of these planes, and the president can either order a nuclear strike to anywhere on the globe at any time, or hold a conference meeting with his entire cabinet at any times he or she wants.