Air Force One is the name of any plane the President is on.

  • Air Force One in Flight
Air Force One in Flight
BrianEKushner/ iStock

The presidential airplane is iconic, decorated with an American flag on the tail, the seal of the President of the United States by the door, and the words “United States of America” along the side. It’s known as Air Force One — but that term actually refers not to any specific plane, but to what is being transported. Air Force One is the radio name for any airplane that’s carrying the President of the United States. Usually, the President travels on a plane custom-designed to transport the commander in chief, nicknamed the “flying Oval Office.” 

The first plane to bear the designation “Air Force One” was Columbine II, the aircraft that transported President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1954. In 1953, Eisenhower’s plane, then called Air Force 8610, almost collided with a passenger plane, Eastern Air Lines 8610. The Air Force One name was born to quickly communicate to air traffic control which plane the President was on, avoiding confusion with other planes in the area.

The current presidential aircraft is a customized Boeing 747-200 (and another identical plane) first used during George H.W. Bush’s administration. It boasts three stories, a medical suite that can function as an operating room, food galleys capable of feeding 100 people, and quarters for staffers and members of the press. It’s even capable of fueling mid-flight.

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