Home North America Where Are All the Air Force One Aircraft?

Where Are All the Air Force One Aircraft?

by Matt Falcus

After Concorde, Air Force One is probably the most famous aircraft that people know. Most people will have heard of it, seen the film about it, and seen it in countless news pieces as the US President travels about the globe.

But did you know, Air Force One is actually a fluid thing?

No one plane has the title Air Force One, and there have been lots of them over the years.

In fact, two new aircraft are being fitted out for the purpose at the moment.


What is Air Force One?

Air Force One is the title given to the aircraft which is carrying the US President at the time.

There are currently two Boeing 747 variants assigned to the role, but the President also flies on various other aircraft as he moves around on his duties.

Air Force One is the flight, not the aircraft.


The Current Air Force One Aircraft

Air Force One lands at Hickam Air Force Base (AFB) with US President George W. Bush on board for his first visit to Hawaii while holding office.

The two aircraft most commonly referred to as Air Force One today are a pair of modified Boeing 747s, known by the military variant VC-25A.

They were ordered in the 1980s, and are based on the Boeing 747-200B fuselage, with the 747-400 avionics and flight systems.

They also have a host of protective equipment on board more akin to military aircraft, and inside it is nothing like a conventional airliner.

It even has a door and staircase from the lower level, where the cargo hold is located on a regular 747!

The two aircraft presently used for Air Force One flights are:

  • 82-8000 “SAM 28000”, c/n 23824/679
  • 92-9000 “SAM 29000”, c/n 23825/685

They were both built in 1987, and are operated by the 89 Air Wing based at Andrews AFB, MD.


Where are the Previous Air Force One Aircraft

There have been a number of aircraft previously used as Air Force One, and thankfully most still exist and have been preserved. So it’s possible to visit them.

Here are the aircraft previously used as Air Force One:


Douglas C-54 “Sacred Cow

Sacred Cow. U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock

The first purpose-built presidential transport aircraft. Sacred Cow was a Douglas VC-54C, based on the DC-4, with serial 42-107451.

Introduced in 1945 for President Roosevelt, it was replaced in 1947, but went on to other duties until retired in 1961.

Sacred Cow is now preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.


Douglas C-118 “The Independence

The Independence. U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock

Replacing Sacred Cow in 1947, President Truman named this aircraft after his hometown, Independence, MO. It was based on the Douglas DC-6, with four piston engines. It had the serial 46-505.

The Independence was replaced in 1953 but carried on in a VIP role until 1965. It is now preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH


Constellations “Columbine II” and “Columbine III

Columbine II at Bridgewater Air Park. Fadamor / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

“Columbine III” in the Presidential Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

These two Lockheed VC-121 Constellation aircraft were introduced by President Eisenhower in 1952 and 1954 respectively. They had serial numbers 48-0610 and 53-7885.

Columbine II was the first aircraft to ever use the Air Force One callsign.

Columbine II is currently at Bridgewater, VA undergoing restoration.

Columbine III is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, OH.


Aero Commander

President Eisenhower and his presidential pilot, Col. William G. Draper, with the U-4B Aero Commander. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U-4B Aero Commander 55-4638 was the smallest aircraft ever to be used as Air Force One. It was used by President Eisenhower, who sometimes took the controls, between 1956-1960.

It is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, OH.


Boeing 707 SAM 970


58-6970 in Seattle (c) Matt Falcus

The first jet aircraft to be used as Air Force One was a Boeing 707-120, introduced in 1959. Its serial was 58-6970, and was given the designation Boeing VC-137B. It was replaced in this role in 1962, but carried on in the government fleet until 1996.

Today it is on display at the Museum of Flight at Seattle’s Boeing Field.


Boeing 707 SAM 971

VC-137B Stratoliner s/n 58-6971

The second of a batch of three 707s ordered for the presidential fleet, SAM 971 was a VC-137B with serial 58-6971 and fleet between 1959 and 1998.

It is now preserved at the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ.


Boeing 707 SAM 972

58-6972 Boeing VC-137B (707-153B) LHR 1988

The third VC-137B was 58-6972 and flew between 1959 and 1996. It has since been scrapped.


Boeing 707 SAM 26000

SAM 26000 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on April 9, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)


The next generation of Air Force One aircraft were based on the Boeing 707-320 and had the designation VC-137C. SAM 26000 had the serial 62-6000 and flew from 1962 with President John F Kennedy.

It was also the first to wear the familiar white, blue and grey livery with ‘United States of America’ titles.

This is the aircraft aboard which Lyndon B Johnson took the oath of office following the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963.

SAM 26000 was replaced by SAM 27000 (see below) in 1972, but operated in a back-up role until 1998.

It is now preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Dayton, OH.


Boeing 707 SAM 27000

Air Force 1

The second Boeing 707 used as Air Force One was VC-137C SAM 27000, or 72-7000, introduced in 1972 for President Nixon and six subsequent presidents until it was replaced in 1990. It did undertake a few other presidential journeys over later years, including carrying Richard Nixon’s body following his death.

SAM 27000 was retired to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, where it is on display.



An Honorary Air Force One


Recently a former Singapore Airlines, Pan Am and Evergreen International Boeing 747-212B, N485EV, was relocated by barge to North Kingstown, RI, to become the feature of the Air Force One Experience (see https://www.airforceoneexperience.com/).

The aircraft was painted in the authentic Air Force One livery and turned into a unique educational experience on the history of the aircraft and the ones that came before it. The interior tells the story, with bare sections, and sections fitted out exactly as on board the real aircraft.



When Will the New Air Force One be Ready?

President Trump recently approved the construction of two new aircraft to be used as Air Force One, to replace the current, ageing aircraft.

Based on the Boeing 747-8, they will feature all the latest avionics, components and defensive measures, as well as on-board luxury and ability to serve as a ‘flying White House’.

In order to save money, it was decided to convert two 747-8s built for bankrupt Transaero Airlines, which had been sent to the Mojave Desert for storage. They are likely to be given the military designation VC-25B.

The new aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2024. It will also feature a new livery – the first since 1962.



How many Air Fore One aircraft have you seen?

Here’s a summary of where the survivors can be found:

  • 42-107451, Douglas VC-54C “Sacred Cow”, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
  • 46-505, Douglas VC-118 “The Independence”, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
  • 48-0610, Lockheed VC-121 Constellation “Columbine II”, Bridgewater, VA
  • 53-7885, Lockheed VC-121 Constellation “Columbine III”, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
  • 55-4638, U-4B Aero Commander, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
  • 58-6970, Boeing VC-137B, SAM 970, Museum of Flight, Seattle, WA
  • 58-6971, Boeing VC-137B, SAM 971, Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, AZ
  • 58-6972, Boeing VC-137B, SAM 972, Scrapped
  • 62-6000, Boeing VC-137C, SAM 26000, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, OH
  • 72-7000, Boeing VC-137C, SAM 27000, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA
  • 82-8000, Boeing VC-25A, SAM 28000, Active Andrews AFB, MD
  • 92-9000, Boeing VC-25A, SAM 29000, Active Andrews AFB, MD


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Jon July 11, 2020 - 12:58 am

The new Air Force One might not get the new livery if Trump Loses as Biden prefers the Loewy blue & white.

Preserved Boeing 747s Around the World - Airport Spotting September 21, 2020 - 9:34 am

[…] International, this aircraft was transported by road and sea to Rhode Island and painted in Air Force One colours at the Air Force One Experience, due to open this year. See […]

Mark taylor January 26, 2021 - 7:47 pm

I hope President Biden stays with the original Colours and NOT THE ONES CHOSEN BY TRUMP THE DISGRACED PRESIDENT.

Randy February 7, 2021 - 2:47 am

Your comment shows the hypocrisy the left display. They feel you have the right to speak your mind as long as it doesn’t disagree with theirs.

Ricky Rodriguez February 14, 2021 - 3:17 pm

Keep Air Force One the same colors

Raynor Roberts Jr February 16, 2021 - 1:31 am

My dad was director of operations for the Special Air Missions while there he was a copilot flying astronauts Kennedy’s family, Vice President Humphry’d and President Johnson many places.

Robert BARRY February 16, 2021 - 5:59 pm

Do not change the color scheme to what traitor Trump wants.

Mark Edwards February 18, 2021 - 9:40 am

When the plane carrying the POTUS is flying, what is its call sign?

CJHJ February 19, 2021 - 1:49 am

There is pride and history in the current paint scheme. In addition, it is the most recognized plane color scheme (by friends, allies and adversaries) in the world. The suggested scheme is more of a traditional airline paint scheme. From a distance it would look like a any commercial airliner (45 wanted Air Force One to look like his personal plane). The current scheme from a distance is beautiful and unmistakable as Air Force One. I’ve seen it in the air a few time and as a veteran, my chest sticks out a bit more with pride when I see that gleaming bird moving out!

I’m willing to bet, when it’s time to add the final touches and apply the exterior paint scheme, President Biden will have the final input on the color. As a man who respects traditions and history, he knows how what that plane and those colors mean.
I expect we will see the current paint scheme on the new aircraft.

Also keep in mind, it would mean that all the other aircraft in the executive fleet would have to be repainted! There are a number of 757s, 737s and numerous smaller aircraft in the fleet. That’s another huge cost to the taxpayers! I can’t/don’t see this paint change happening!

Anthony Daldegan February 20, 2021 - 9:53 am

Didn’t LBJ use a twin engine turbo-prop Convair sometimes to fly to his ranch in Texas? Would that not have been Air Force One when he was aboard?

Dennis Wilson February 20, 2021 - 12:59 pm

The current Air Force One colors are a significant part of our history. I hope President Biden retains those colors. This has nothing to do with hypricosy from the left or the right but with respect for Air Force One colors. Trump lost so it’s no longer his decision.

Jim February 21, 2021 - 3:18 pm

I work 4 miles from Wright-Patt. It has to a tremendous collection of aircraft in addition to the Presidential planes. Memphis Belle, Bockscar, the XB-70 Valkyrie, and a B-52, all indoors. It is a must see for all of us aviation nuts,

Ivan Wesley Miller May 1, 2022 - 10:52 pm

Best reason to make sure Trump isn’t elected in 2024, not having that horrible paint job on our Air Force One.

Dave August 20, 2022 - 10:32 pm

In Addition to 971 known as Freedom One for bringing hostages home twice, Pima has the short field prop aircraft used by Kennedy and Johnson that was based on a Douglas C54 and a 4 engine Gulfstream that Johnson called Air force one half

Dave August 20, 2022 - 10:48 pm

I amend my earlier comment. Douglas C118 has Big leather chair in the back for Kennedy and the other is a Lockheed Jetstar.

Dave March 1, 2023 - 1:41 am

There is a Lockheed Jet star at Pins Air and Space that Lyndon Johnson used as president. Rumor is he hit his head in it cursing and labelling it AF 1/2

Dave March 1, 2023 - 1:42 am

Should say Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson

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[…] [Where are all the Air Force One aircraft now?] […]

Bos2Aus June 14, 2023 - 4:44 am

There’s a jetstar from Johnson’s presidency on display (you can also poke your head inside!) at the LBJ ranch as well.


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