What Would Happen if Trump Chose His Personal Plane Over Air Force One
Donald Trump is an unusual president-elect for many different reasons. On January 20, he will make history as the only president never to have previously held political office or served in the military.
And he will also be the first president to arrive in office with his own plane.
The presidential plane was first instated as a perk in 1943, while Franklin D. Roosevelt was in office. (Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to ever ride in a plane, but he didn’t manage to hitch a flight until after he had left office.)
The term “Air Force One” did not come about until 1953. That year, an Eastern Airlines commercial flight (Flight 8610) was flying in the same airspace as the plane carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Air Force 8610). To avoid any future call sign confusion, the air force decided that the presidential plane would be referred to as “Air Force One” from then on.
Air Force One does not actually refer to a specific plane, but rather whichever plane happens to be carrying the President of the United States of America at that time.
There are currently two Boeing 747-200s which serve as presidential aircraft—whichever one the president is on at the time gets the name.
Next year, the presidential planes are due to be replaced. The current 747-200s will be retired and a Boeing 747-8 will take their place. It will produce less carbon emissions than the outgoing planes, which went into service in 1990. It is also capable of flying faster and further, and is expected to serve as the presidential plane for the next 30 years.
Whether or not President Trump decides to use the new plane next year remains to be seen. Air Force One will be decidedly less luxe than Trump’s current Boeing 757.
Trump refers to his personal plane as “T-Bird” although others have nicknamed it “Trump Force One.” Earlier this year, Trump referred to the 757 as his “favorite flying toy” in an interview.
The plane is powered by two Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofan engines—a feature Trump was apparently very keen on installing. The 757 is not known for being particularly fuel efficient. In aviation circles, it’s practically the equivalent of a hot rod. It is capable of reaching up to 500 miles per hour.
Trump’s plane was made in 1991 and was originally used by small airlines. In 2009, Trump paid $100 million for the plane. Aviation experts now value it at $18 million, according to The New York Times.
The plane is outfitted to accommodate up to 43 people and every feature was custom designed. All of the plane’s fixtures—even the seatbelt buckles—are plated with 24-karat gold.
Trump’s flying bedroom is decked out with silk sheets and Trump insignia. There’s also a big screen entertainment system and bathroom with a shower and—wait for it—gold-plated sink.
For guests traveling onboard the Trump plane, there’s a dining room, lounge with 57-inch TV, personal entertainment systems and plush seats that convert into beds. For extra special guests, there’s a second bedroom with a couch that converts to a bed.
The in-flight entertainment system has a special “T button” that houses all of Trump’s favorite movies—a feature definitely not available on Air Force One. If Trump were to choose to fly in his own plane over Air Force One, he would be choosing a personal entertainment center and gold-plated faucets over security and communication.
Air Force One can refuel mid-air, is fitted with a high-tech security system, and has 4,000 square feet of floor space across three levels. The aircraft functions as a mobile command center for the president, ensuring he is always able to quickly respond to emergency.
According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, “For security and other reasons, the President, Vice President, and First Lady use military aircraft when they travel.” So it is unlikely that Trump would be allowed to fly in his own plane. However, if Trump did choose a flight in his personal plane for any reason, the plane would be referred to as “Executive One.”
The only relatively similar instance was when Nelson Rockefeller was named Gerald Ford’s Vice President in 1974. Rockefeller owned a Gulfstream plane that he preferred to Air Force Two, which was a DC-9 at the time. His personal plane was called “Executive Two” every time he flew in it.
Rockefeller was resistant to using Air Force Two as he thought that flying on his own plane saved taxpayer money. Eventually, secret service convinced Rockefeller that it ended up costing more to fly agents separately for his protection than if he just flew on Air Force Two with them.
During Trump’s campaign for president, air travel was one of the largest expenses. In less than a year, the campaign spent $3.7 million in travel costs, a significant portion of which was used to fuel the Boeing 757, which costs thousands of dollars every hour it is in the air.
Other aircraft in Trump’s fleet include a smaller jet and three helicopters. Meanwhile, the presidential fleet is due to receive 23 new helicopters, scheduled to touch down on the White House lawn in 2020.