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Air Platforms

New ‘Air Force One’ aircraft begins modification

19 March 2020
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Key Points

  • The US Air Force has started modifying the first of two 747-8 aircraft that will be used for presidential service
  • Modification of the second aircraft will begin later this year

The US Air Force (USAF) on 25 February began modifying the first of two Boeing 747-8 commercial aircraft that will be used in US presidential service.

The Boeing VC-25 Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) programme will design, modify, test, and deliver two aircraft replacing the current pair of VC-25A (747-200) aircraft. These platforms will serve as a flying White House for the next 30 years, according to a service statement. The new Air Force One, the call sign for when the president is on board, will enable him or her to perform the duties of commander-in-chief, head of state, and chief executive.

The first phase of aircraft modification involves cutting out large skin and structure areas in both the forward and aft lower lobes of the aircraft before installing two newly manufactured superpanels. These superpanels are manufactured of the same aircraft-grade aluminium-alloy utilised on the 747-8i. USAF spokesperson Captain Cara Bousie said on 18 March that the superpanels contain structural upgrades for the door frames, support carriage with airstairs, and rerouting of existing 747-8 wiring and support systems.

Following ferry flights to the Boeing modification facility in the second quarter of 2019, the company prepared the two 747-8 aircraft for modification by removing the commercial interiors, engines, auxiliary power units (APUs), and many secondary system components. Additionally, Boeing placed a sophisticated jacking and crib mechanism under each aircraft to reduce structural stress for the initial modification phases. The jacking and crib mechanism, Capt Bousie said, are support structures designed to neutralise aircraft structural loads, maintain the aircraft shape, and prevent any shifting or flexing when skin and structure are removed and the superpanels are installed during modification.

The landing of a VC-25A (undated image). The US Air Force began modifying the first of two Boeing 747-8 commercial aircraft that will soon become VC-25Bs and be known as Air Force One when the US president is on board. (US Air Force)The landing of a VC-25A (undated image). The US Air Force began modifying the first of two Boeing 747-8 commercial aircraft that will soon become VC-25Bs and be known as Air Force One when the US president is on board. (US Air Force)

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