Last Updated: 7/9/2018

My White House Days - A View from the Bottom
(and a history of Presidential (Air Force One) and other VIP flight)

Appendix II: White House aircraft purchased after I left (1972)

R.J.Ribando, Copyright 1998, 2018 All Rights Reserved

A new Air Force One was on order when I left in May 1972. SAM 58-6970, the 1958-model VC-137B, didn't have the range to keep up with the newer VC-137C SAM 62-6000. Besides that it was smaller and laid out totally differently inside, so was never really a great backup. At the time there was also talk of Boeing shutting down the 707 production line (actually the 89th acquired two more used 707's in 1985 (and numbered them 85-6973 and 85-6974 to keep the numbers running in sequence). This photo by Air Force photographer Ken Hackman of the new aircraft SAM 72-7000 flying over the home of the first commander-in-chief [26] in the beautiful Virginia countryside is probably one of the coolest aircraft pictures ever taken. Nothing high tech here. While flying at low altitude, the photographer ties a safety rope around his waist, opens the emergency escape hatch of the chase plane and sticks head and camera out!


Here's another nice shot of SAM 72-7000 taking off at Grand Junction, CO [27]:



After serving seven administrations, SAM 27000 flew its final presidential flight in August 2001. Then it was flown to Simi Valley, CA, where it is displayed at the Reagan Presidential Library.   It has been used regularly as the backdrop for Republican primary season debates.

Three McDonnell Douglas DC-9's (the military designation is the C9-C [10] were bought to replace the VC-131's and VC-118's in 1975 [1]. The USAF already had DC-9's flying aeromedical evacuation missions as the C9 Nightingale. The latter were seen frequently at Andrews, an important transhipment point for servicemen wounded in Vietnam. The last of these three aircraft (73-1681 now at Castle Air Museum, 73-1682 now at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Delaware and 73-1683, now at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum) retired from VIP service in Fall 2005.

Starting in 1983 Gulfstream 3's (C-20A) were bought to replace the Jetstars. These C-20's have a 4000 mile range and seat twelve comfortably in their executive interior. Flights in a C-20 don't come cheaply; in 1991 the Air Force billed other governmental agencies $5,329 per flight hour for C-20 use [29]. Occasionally C-20's have been observed making touch-and-go landings at the Charlottesville Airport and flying over the University grounds. (They're easy to identify because of the distinctive paint scheme and the "winglets.") More technical details may be found here.


The current Air Force One and a backup were delivered in 1990 and 1991 [30,31]. Extensively modified Boeing 747-200's, the VC-25 aircraft sports a paint scheme similar to that used formerly on the VC-137's.  An interesting account by the former First Passenger may be found in Reference 32. Note that expenditures like this one are nearly always authorized at the end of one administration and delivered in the next! Per flying hour costs for the VC-25A are currently $34,400. As an illustration of how extensive an operation moving the president is, the late March 1998 trip to 6 countries in Africa, including advance and other logistics trips bringing in ground support vehicles, helicopters, etc. involved 214 missions in 11 different types of aircraft! The total cost of moving some 1300 people was in excess of $42 million [33].

The first of four C-32A's, a military version of the Boeing 757, was delivered in March 1998. These aircraft are used by the Vice President, Secretary of State, etc. Here's a VIP's view of the C-32 exterior from the entry door. By August 2001 these and two C-37A aircraft (Gulfstream 5's) had replaced all the VC-137's [34]. You can tell the C-37's from the C-20's by the larger engines on the former. The C-37's are really quite attractive and comfortable inside and have a rather unique facility for bilateral discussions at the aft end of the cabin!

Beginning in December 2002 Boeing delivered four C-40B's (737-700) to replace the C-9's.

The current VC-25’s used as Air Force One are over a quarter century old and need to be replaced soon.    A comparison between the old and the proposed 747-8 replacement can be found here.



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