Air Force One.
There is probably not a more recognized plane in the whole world than the one that carries around the President of the United States. It has been photographed more than any other plane in the world, it was the centerpiece of a major movie starring Harrison Ford, and it is getting pretty old and worn out.
Just to be totally accurate, Air Force One is technically the callsign of any Air Force aircraft that is carrying the President, just as Marine One is a Marine aircraft carrying the President. Multiple aircraft have carried the title of Air Force One over the years, but it is currently associated with two Boeing VC-25As which are highly customized 747-200Bs.
The first VC-25A was delivered in 1990 which means that these aircraft are coming up on a quarter century of flight around the world. While that is not exceptionally old by some standards, this platform is getting old as most airlines have retired these older models of the 747 which means that maintenance costs continue to rise as parts become less common.
So what aircraft is going to replace this iconic platform?
The Air Force put out a request for a replacement back in January of 2009 to have a new plane in service by 2017. A couple of weeks later, EADS(Airbus) took themselves out of the running leaving Boeing as the sole bidder, with the 747-8 and the 787 Dreamliner as the proposed offerings.
President Obama tours the 787 production line with Jim McNerney, Chairman, President & CEO of The Boeing Company (right) and Jim Albaugh, President & CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Photo by Marian Lockhart.
Interestingly, President Obama toured the facility in Washington where the 787 Dreamliner is assembled. I don’t think that is necessarily an indication of an impending decision as much as a political move of some sort, but it certainly gets the wheels turning.
The 787 Dreamliner is arguably the most innovative aircraft in the world right now. Its carbon fiber construction, and high-tech roots make it incredibly suited to all types of applications. One of the biggest appeals is the fuel-efficiency and eco-friendly buzz words that make so many people swoon these days.
From everything that we can tell the Dreamliner is a great aircraft that is living up to the hype, but it is hard to know how good a plane really is until it has some real-time in service. That being said, I can think of a couple of reasons that this would be a very appealing choice for the most powerful office in the world.
As I already mentioned, being able to use those great buzz words of fuel-efficient and eco-friendly are just the type of thing that a president who is so worried about his image on the international stage would eat up. America has a terrible reputation when it comes to fossil fuel emissions and replacing the biggest fuel burner in the US government would definitely help that image.
Being in an election year where the economy is far and away the number one issue, picking the Dreamliner would be a great move from a political standpoint. The purchase itself wouldn’t mean a lot since it is only for three planes, but it could make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.
I’m sure Boeing would love to have their new baby shown off to the whole world every time the President gets on and off his plane. How many airlines would at the very least take a more serious look at the Dreamliner if the President of the United States called it his personal jet?
It is one thing to go and tour the plant and say that it is a great airframe, and all of the factory workers are doing a great job, but it is quite another to pick that plane to replace the most photographed, highly recognizable plane in the world. Like so many other companies across the country, Boeing can use all of the help they can get.