Historical Snapshot

Air Force One

The airplane used to transport the president of the United States is known by the radio call sign used when the president is aboard: Air Force One.

The first purpose-built Air Force One was based on the long-range Boeing 707-320 Intercontinental, which was the most commonly ordered version of the 707 airliner. Its fuselage was 8 feet (2.4 meters) longer than the 707-120, and its wingspan was 12 feet (3.7 meters) longer.

With new turbofan jet engines, the B versions had a range of 6,000 miles (1.8 kilometers), and in 1962, a 707-320B took over the role of U.S. government VIP and presidential transport, designated VC-137C. A second VC-137C was delivered in 1972.

President John F. Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, selected the colors of the first Air Force One, VC-137C. The 707s served as presidential aircraft until they were replaced by 747-200s, designated VC-25A, in 1990. Principal differences between Air Force One and the standard Boeing 747 include state-of-the-art navigation, electronic and communications equipment; its interior configuration and furnishings; self-contained baggage loader; and front and aft airstairs. The “flying Oval Office” has 4,000 square feet (371 square meters) of interior floor space with presidential living quarters, office areas, work and rest areas for staff, press and crews, and two galleys that can serve 100 at one sitting. Air Force One is crewed by U.S. Air Force personnel.

    Technical Specifications

    First flight Jan. 11, 1959
    Model number 707-320
    Classification Commercial transport
    Span 142 feet 5 inches
    Length 152 feet 11 inches
    Gross weight 316,000 pounds
    Cruising speed 600 mph
    Range 6,000 miles
    Ceiling 41,000 feet
    Power Four 18,000-pound-thrust P&W JT3D turbofan engines
    Accommodation Up to 189 passengers