flying White House

Last week diverse media have been announcing ultimate aircraft prototypes for the future; from fully see-through fuselage, making contemplation of sunset, clouds and storms feasible, to hypersonic speeds covering Paris-Tokyo in 2,5 hours. This made me wonder how the Air Force One, the flying White House, looks like. How to modify a standard aircraft into one of the main centres of itinerant global power? The Boeing 747, used since 1990, has three decks; the upper level reserved for pilots, crew and communication centre; the main deck for the mobile headquarters, Presidential quarters, security and press; the lowest for equipment cargo. However, the most striking feature concerning the interior spatial organisation is that it could literally be a mansion in solid ground. Conventional codes of comfort are directly transposed into the air: cushions, handcrafted furniture by master carpenters, thick carpets, office blinds, living-room lamps, leather sofas, oak tables… Almost 1:1 scale reproductions of items that could perfectly be on earth. The flying Oval Office is nonetheless prepared to stay up in the air indefinitely. Its in-flight refuelling system, allows the aeroplane avoid touching ground in case of emergency.

Although every Air Force One flight is classified as a military operation and handled as such, it does not differ from a social meeting at the earthly White House. The furbishing is closely linked to every mandate, making the President always feel at home. When Ronald Reagan’s body was flown inside the Air Force One to Washington, the front of the aircraft was changed exactly the way it was when he was President. Original crew jackets, chairs, books and even candies replaced the present ones to make widow Nancy Reagan feel at home during the flight.

Presidents, Kings, Prime Ministers and important leaders unveil their way of understanding politics and representing the country through their personal aircraft. In the graphic below Poor Country, Wealthy Aircraft (2008), some of the most prominent jets are related to the GDP per capita of the country. Citizens’ taxes support their leader’s plane.

Being detached satellites from the mother ship, embassies dining halls are also carefully conceived to present and represent a country to its guests; presidential aircrafts go a step further in the same line by being both temporary homes and ephemeral offices.


[1> Air Force One Floor Plan 2009 via How Stuff Works][2-4> Interiors of Obama’s Air Force One by Pete Souza][5>Poor Country, Wealthy Aircraft by Rafa Salas/La Vanguardia, 2008] [6> Russian Air Force One interiors via home-designing]

One Comment

  1. Scott

    Ironically, it seems like people survive crashes at the middle to back of planes (front of wings). Why do they put the Prez in the nose?? One article says 69% of survivors are behind wing location. Food for thought, boeing….

Leave a Reply