“Air Force One” is not technically a plane – it’s the radio call signal for any Air Force craft the president is aboard. The first aircraft made especially for the president and routinely called “Air Force One” was a Boeing 707 that entered service on October 10, 1962. That plane was also known as SAM 26000 (Special Air Mission, tail No. 26000). SAM 26000 served eight presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton. It flew Kennedy to Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, the day he was assassinated. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office as the new president on the plane, which then flew him and Kennedy’s body back to Washington, D.C. In 1972 another Boeing 707 (SAM 27000) became the primary presidential aircraft, and SAM 26000 was used as a backup plane.
Today, two nearly identical, custom-built Boeing 747-200B jets (tail numbers 28000 and 29000) regularly carry the president. Both are based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, ten miles from the White House. As soon as the president steps aboard one of these planes, it becomes Air Force One.
The presidential jet is as long as a city block and taller than a five-story building. It has an office, stateroom, and conference room for the president, as well as room for plenty of staff, Secret Service agents, reporters, and guests. Its communications network allows the president to contact virtually anyone from the air. The plane carries anti-missile devices, and shielding protects its electronics from interference caused by a nuclear blast.
This flying Oval Office can travel 630 miles per hour and halfway around the world without refueling. It can also be refueled in flight. Air Force One has a perfect flying record and is considered the safest plane in the world.