US & Canada

Trump unveils new Air Force One design plans

Mr Trump and his family touch down in Scotland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new planes will be unveiled in 2024

US President Donald Trump has revealed the renderings of the redesign of the presidential aircraft fleet, known as Air Force One.

The new design, which Mr Trump showed in an ABC interview, trades in the iconic baby blue and white exterior for more patriotic colours.

"There's your new Air Force One," he said, holding up the drawings of the red, white and blue planes.

The revamp would be the first since President John F Kennedy was in office.

Critics note a similarity between Mr Trump's private jet and the new aircraft design, which Mr Trump first announced last year.

The presidential fleet includes two identical jets, and whichever one the president is aboard is given the signal name Air Force One.

The current Boeing 747s have been in use for nearly three decades. The 4,000 sq/ft (1,220 sq/m) aircraft features three floors, armoured windows, medical offices and a kitchen that can feed 100 people at a time.

The two planes will also be Boeing 747s, which Mr Trump said he negotiated for a price tag of $3.9bn (£3.1bn). They are due to be delivered in 2024 and may not be put into rotation until after Mr Trump leaves office.

Mr Trump claims the new jets are much bigger and have "a much bigger wingspan" than the current models.

"I'm doing that for other presidents, not for me," he told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos.

The first Air Force One Jet, which was used by President Dwight Eisenhower starting in 1959, had a red and gold design.

President John F Kennedy changed the colours to the baby blue and white, which is still used today.

Russia, China and France also have presidential planes that are painted red, white and blue.


An icon that endures

Tara McKelvey, BBC News White House reporter

For decades, Air Force One has shuttled presidents abroad and at the same time acted as a sleek, elegant symbol of US political power. Mr Trump wanted to shake things up after his election, though, and tried to take control of the way that Air Force One was managed.

For aviation experts such as Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia, this was a "terrifying" prospect. The president had no professional experience in aviation, and Mr Aboulafia thought that anything could happen.

Now Mr Trump has made his big announcement about a redesign: he says he wants to change the colours of Air Force One - from robin's-egg blue to red, white and blue (in a darker hue).

Some lawmakers are upset about the proposed colour scheme. But aviation experts say they are glad the president is talking only about alterations in colour and not about changes in its security mechanisms.

Aviation experts are not fazed by the possibility that Air Force One will be painted dark blue instead of light blue, pointing out that its essential character - its ability to transport the president safely - will stay the same. This means, as Mr Aboulafia says, that Air Force One will remain a symbol of "the permanence and durability and survivability of a political system - regardless of who's at the helm".


Congressional turbulence

The reveal comes after the House of Representatives Armed Service Committee considered an amendment to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require congressional approval for Mr Trump's planned changes to Air Force One's exterior and interior design.

Congressman Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connecticut, introduced the legislation and argued it was an economic measure.

"Additional paint can add weight to the plane, additional fixtures inside can also add to cost and delays to the delivery of the plane," he said on Wednesday.

Alabama Republican Bradley Bryne objected, saying the bill "looks like an attempt to just poke at the president".

It is unclear if Mr Courtney's proposed amendment will be included in the final version of the bill, which still needs approval from the full House.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Staff working space on Air Force One, pictured in 1990

'No pod'

Asked by the interviewer if there was an emergency escape "pod" on board like in the Harrison Ford film Air Force One, Mr Trump seemed puzzled.

"The famous pod that flies out of the back?" said Mr Stephanopoulos after Mr Trump answered that he had in fact seen the movie.

"Oh, I see," Mr Trump laughed. "But, yeah. No."

"There are a couple of secrets," he said, adding: "You know what, there are a couple of secrets I don't think we're supposed to be talking about."

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