After 30 years of service and five presidents later, the two Boeing 747 Air Force Ones are in the process of being phased out. The 747, designated as the VC-25A by the Air Force, is going to be replaced by Boeing’s 747-8i, also known as the VC-25B. Business Insider published an in-depth article on the subject, providing supporting information for this article.
The typical lifespan for a commercial airplane is about 30 years, so the timing for the new Air Force One is logical. The replacement was put in to motion during the Obama presidency, but the major planning and details were left to President Trump. As you can imagine, replacing the two Air Force One’s is no cheap task.
President Obama had ordered two brand new 747-8is from Boeing. Once President Trump arrived, he was blown away by the $4.4 billion price tag. Trump canceled the order and worked with Boeing to achieve a cheaper solution. After going through a slew of options, two pre-owned 747-8is became available. A Russian airline, Transaero, had ordered the planes, but went belly-up and could not complete the purchase. Trump approved the purchase of the two planes. Apparently, the U.S. government got them at a good price.
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said, “We got a really good deal.”
The new 747-8i is larger than its predecessor. Even with the increase in size, the passenger capacity will remain the same at 71. The increase in size will translate to larger spaces throughout the plane.
President Trump also decided that the new Air Force One would be receiving an upgraded paint job. Air Force One and the VIP planes have had an unmistakable blue and white paint job. Trump decided to update the paint job to one consisting of a lot more red, white, and blue. He had a model of the new plane in the Oval Office for guests to see.
Now that Trump is out of office, it is unknown whether President Biden will maintain the new color scheme and/or apply it to all of the government VIP planes.
The new presidential plane will be outfitted with General Electrics modern jet engines, which are much more advanced than the engines outfitted on the current Air Force One. These new engines are more fuel-efficient and are projected to save the Air Force $1.9 billion in fuel.
The VC-25B will have a range of 5,900 nautical miles. While there are other commercial planes with a further range, the 5,900-mile mark will allow Air Force One to reach just about any populated area in the world. This range pales in comparison to the current plane, which has an unlimited range due to its in-flight refueling capability. Nevertheless, in the history of the aircraft, in-flight refueling has never been used, which is why the function has been eliminated in the new variants.
Although President Trump and the Air Force made great efforts to keep costs down, the final cost of the replacement is projected to be $5.3 billion. This cost includes a new hangar at Andrews Air Force Base, the complete outfitting of the airplane’s interior, and other required equipment.
The last upgrade to POTUS’s aerial transport, which started during the Reagan presidency and was completed during President George H.W. Bush’s term, cost only $660 million.
In addition to everything else, the Air Force ordered the VC-25B “Owner’s Manual.” This 100,000-page document has a sticker price of $84 million and will not be completed until January 2025.
The new Air Force Ones are projected to have a 30-year lifespan. If Boeing decides to discontinue the 747 aircraft completely, the next Air Force One may be smaller in size.
The new Air Force will be delivered in 2024, allowing President Biden to enjoy the plane for only a short amount of time during his current term in office.