Open Cock­pit

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Steve Slater

Trump buys Rus­sian! So much for 'Make Amer­ica Great Again'...

So, how much would you pay for a sec­ond-hand aero­plane? Well Don­ald J Trump – or at least the Amer­i­can pub­lic – is about to get his cheque book out for an eye-wa­ter­ing $5.3 bil­lion to pro­cure two Boe­ing VC-25B ex­ec­u­tive trans­port air­craft. And (you couldn’t make this up) the air­craft that will be­come the nextgen­er­a­tion ‘Air Force One’ fleet aren’t even brand-new. They’re be­ing bought se­cond­hand from a de­funct Rus­sian air­line.

The Pen­tagon has ap­par­ently bud­geted $4.68 bil­lion for the ac­qui­si­tion and con­ver­sion of two moth­balled Boe­ing 747-8i air­lin­ers. The other half a bil­lion is to cover what the mil­i­tary refers to as ‘the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme’, en­com­pass­ing ‘all costs associated with field­ing the sys­tem’.

Ac­tu­ally, the bud­get is a mark of par­si­mony from Trump’s White House. Wash­ing­ton’s in­ter­ven­tion forced the Air Force to move away from new air­craft to ac­quire the two air­frames that have spent two years stored in the Mo­jave desert in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Rus­sian air­line Transaero. The ac­tual pur­chase price of the two Rus­sian jets is said to be a bargain $390 mil­lion each, but the real costs have be­gun to be in­curred now that the air­craft have been flown to Kelly Field in Texas where the mod­i­fi­ca­tion work will be­gin.

De­tails of the spec­i­fi­ca­tion are nat­u­rally se­cret but, based on in­for­ma­tion on the two cur­rent B747 based VC-25A air­craft that have been in ser­vice since 1990, the jets are likely to be con­fig­ured to ac­com­mo­date about eighty pas­sen­gers, the main deck be­ing used for the Pres­i­den­tial suite at the front of the air­craft, while lesser mor­tals at the rear have ac­com­mo­da­tion akin to an air­line first-class cabin. There are sep­a­rate quar­ters for guests, se­nior staff, Se­cret Ser­vice, se­cu­rity per­son­nel and news me­dia, lo­cated in the aft area of the main deck. Pro­to­col states that one may wan­der aft of one’s as­signed seat, but not for­ward of it.

The front sec­tion, nick­named the ‘White House’, in­cludes sleep­ing quar­ters with two couches that can be con­verted into beds, bath­rooms and the Pres­i­dent’s ‘Oval Of­fice aboard Air Force One’. The air­craft also con­tains a con­fer­ence room, used for meet­ings with staff while travelling as well as tele­con­fer­enc­ing while in the air. It is said that the cur­rent VC-23AS (which only use the call­sign ‘Air Force One’ when the Pres­i­dent is aboard) can also be op­er­ated as a mil­i­tary com­mand cen­tre in the event of an in­ci­dent such as a nu­clear at­tack.

The elec­tron­ics on board are cov­ered with heavy shield­ing for pro­tec­tion from an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse in the event of a nu­clear ex­plo­sion. The air­craft also has

Pro­to­col states that one may wan­der aft of one's as­signed seat, but not for­ward of it

a suite of elec­tronic coun­ter­mea­sures to jam en­emy radar, flares to con­fuse heat­seek­ing weapons, and chaff to bam­boo­zle radar-guided mis­siles.

A med­i­cal an­nex, which in­cludes a fold­out op­er­at­ing ta­ble and a fully-stocked phar­macy, is staffed by a sur­geon and nurse on ev­ery flight. While the new air­craft will lack their pre­de­ces­sors’ lit­tle-used in-flight re­fu­elling ca­pa­bil­ity, which meant they could the­o­ret­i­cally stay air­borne for days at a time, the new air­craft will still be self-suf­fi­cient for lengthy pe­ri­ods, car­ry­ing all the food needed. Meals are pre­pared in two gal­leys, which to­gether are equipped to feed up to 100 peo­ple at a time.

The con­cept of a ded­i­cated pres­i­den­tial trans­port be­gan in 1943, when se­cu­rity staff raised con­cerns re­gard­ing the use of com­mer­cial air­lines to trans­port the Pres­i­dent. Orig­i­nally, a con­verted Con­sol­i­dated Lib­er­a­tor bomber named Guess Where II was ear­marked for use, but was re­jected be­cause of the type’s trans­porta­tion safety record. A Dou­glas C-54 Sky­mas­ter, dubbed ‘the Sa­cred Cow’, was then con­verted and car­ried Pres­i­dent Franklin D Roo­sevelt to the Yalta Con­fer­ence in Fe­bru­ary 1945. It was sub­se­quently used for an­other two years by Pres­i­dent Harry S Tru­man be­fore be­ing re­placed by a mod­i­fied C-118 Lift­mas­ter, named In­de­pen­dence af­ter Tru­man’s Mis­souri home­town. This was the first pres­i­den­tial air­craft that had a dis­tinc­tive ex­te­rior – a bald ea­gle head painted on its nose.

Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower in­tro­duced two Lock­heed VC-121 Con­stel­la­tions, named Columbine II and Columbine III, by First Lady Mamie Eisen­hower af­ter the columbine, the of­fi­cial state flower of her adopted home state of Colorado. ‘Ike’ also up­graded Air Force One’s tech­nol­ogy by adding an airto-ground tele­phone and an air-to-ground tele­type ma­chine. The Con­stel­la­tions in turn were re­placed by a se­ries of Boe­ing VC-137S, mod­i­fied Boe­ing 707s which brought Eisen­hower and his suc­ces­sor John F Kennedy into the age of jet travel.

It was Kennedy, with the French-born Amer­i­can in­dus­trial de­signer Ray­mond Loewy, who was re­spon­si­ble for the dis­tinc­tive Air Force One liv­ery. Their re­search on the project included the type­face from the first printed copy of the United States Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence for the words ‘United States of Amer­ica’ on the air­craft sides, the pres­i­den­tial seal car­ried on both sides of the fuse­lage near the nose, and the two shades of blue which rep­re­sent the early repub­lic and the mod­ern pres­i­dency.

Un­like the fic­tional Air Force One in the epony­mous movie of the same name, the new pres­i­den­tial trans­ports will not be equipped with per­sonal es­cape pod and para­chutes for emergency use. How­ever there has been one un­ex­pected ex­pen­di­ture. Included in the $600 mil­lion of ‘pro­gramme im­ple­men­ta­tion costs’ is a brand-new hangar. It turns out that the ex­ist­ing hangar at An­drews AFB near Wash­ing­ton is a few feet smaller than the longer and wider 747-8i air­craft!

Stephen is CEO of the Light Air­craft As­so­ci­a­tion, Vice-chair of the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Aware­ness Coun­cil, flies a Piper Cub and spent seven years help­ing re­store the ‘Big­gles Bi­plane’ 1914 BE2C replica

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