The Boeing VC25 is arguably the most famous jetliner in the world, even though most people have never heard of it.
Most people do know it, though, by the callsign it’s assigned when the President of the United States is on board: Air Force One.
Air Force One is instantly recognizable — both as the President’s airplane and as a flying symbol of American military and economic might. With its hand-polished blue, white, and silver livery, Air Force One boldly proclaims the arrival of the most powerful man in the world.
What many people don’t know is that there isn’t one, but two nearly identical Boeing jets that serve as the official transport of the president. Normally, the planes are referred to by their tail numbers — 28000 and 29000 — but when the Commander and Chief steps on board, they take on the call sign “Air Force One.” In fact, presidential airplanes didn’t begin using the Air Force One designation until 1959.
The two VC25 jets are actually based on the civilian Boeing 747-200, but with modifications to make it suitible for presidental transport.
The president’s pair of Boeing 747-200 series-based jets are operated by the Presidential Airlift Group out of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The US President is not the only one to have his or her own “presidential jet.” In fact, a larger number of prominent international leaders have some form of executive transport. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet is a popular option for many nations including China, India, and South Korea, and, until recently, Japan. While the Airbus A330 and A340 are also commonly found in presidential fleets.
Here’s a closer look at how the presidents, chancellors, and prime ministers of the world travel.
This story was originally published by Benjamin Zhang in April 2019. It was updated on September 6, 2019.