Presidential aircraft is unique in each country, adapted to the tastes and needs of each president. In this blog entry we talk about the most outstanding aircraft at the service of world leaders.
The plane carrying the President of the United States is called Air Force One. In fact, it is two identical Boeing VC-25A presidential aircraft, a military version of the 747 “Jumbo”, with a wingspan of 60 metres and a length of 70 metres, capable of flying up to 12,600 km at a speed of 1,000 km/h, without refuelling. The aircraft is also fitted with an in-flight refuelling system, which would virtually allow it to remain in the air indefinitely provided it received a regular visit from a tanker plane. Its capacity is only 76 passengers – configured in two classes it can hold up to 524 passengers – and it is the only one in the world with four technical crew members in the cockpit.
This unique aircraft has become a legend due to its numerous appearances in the cinema. Its security features are top secret, but there is speculation that they include sophisticated military radar jamming systems and anti-missile measures. In addition, a third plane is at the president’s disposal, but in this case it is an emergency tool. The Boeing E-4B, also based on the 747, is prepared to withstand a nuclear war and quickly evacuate the president. For this reason it is available 24 hours a day, has unparalleled communications equipment, and is capable of flying for some 620 hours without refuelling.
The current “Air Force One” was built in 1987 but a replacement is now planned for 2024 as these presidential planes are showing signs of ageing. The new aircraft that will replace them will be equipped with far superior technology, capable of flying in scenarios such as nuclear war, with advanced communications and self-defence systems. The cost to the United States government’s coffers will be around $4 billion between the two units that will be built.
The number one of the most expensive aircraft in the world is a Boeing 747, considered an “air palace” because of its $520 million cost. It was purchased by King Abdullah. The aircraft even has a fountain inside. It is followed by an Airbus A380, valued at $500 million, acquired by Prince Abdullah bin Abdelazizm. The aircraft was customised for his use and has a spa service, sauna, plasma TVs, and a dining room for 20 people.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin uses an Ilushin IL-96-300 that cost nearly half a billion dollars. After being adapted as a presidential plane, the aircraft has specific areas for work, rest and exercise. The plane has technology that makes it undetectable to radar. It is over 55 metres long and has a wingspan of over 60 metres. For safety reasons, there are four identical aircraft and it is never known in advance in which one the president is travelling to ensure the protection of the president. The aircraft has sufficient range to cover the distance between Moscow and Antarctica non-stop.
The Spanish state has a fleet of seven presidential aircraft assigned to the Ministry of Defence’s budget to transport members of the government and the royal family, as well as being used to carry out other operations, such as humanitarian actions. The aircraft are part of Group 45 of the Spanish Air Force, a unit based in Torrejón de Ardoz which is responsible for maintaining the aircraft and operating the services entrusted to it. The group has two Airbus A310s and five Falcon 900Bs. The former, which are used for long-haul journeys or where a considerable number of people have to be moved, were bought second-hand from Air France in 2002 for ?172 million. The other five arrived in two separate deliveries. The government took over two units in 1988, and in 2003 bought the rest – also second-hand – from the Australian armed forces for ?76 million. The seven aircraft are over 30 years old. The Falcon 900B is the most used by the government. They are small aircraft, about 20 metres long and capable of carrying about 12 passengers. With a speed of 927 kilometres per hour, they have a range of 7,000 kilometres and a range of eight hours, allowing them to make transatlantic journeys between Spain and North America.
An A340 named Konrad Adenauer (after the former first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II) is now used to transport Germany’s chancellors. Manufactured by the European consortium Airbus, and valued at $300 million, this aircraft was modified to increase its range (Extended Range) and has a luxurious interior to accommodate German leaders (now Chancellor Angela Merkel) and their entourages, including a soundproofed meeting room. Unlike other presidential aircraft, Germany’s has the capacity to quickly become an air hospital. This year the German government has ordered three Airbus A350s, which will replace the two veteran A340-300s. The new presidential aircraft were handed over to Lufthansa Technik, which will be responsible for implementing all the modifications necessary for the task the new additions are to serve. The project includes a completely VIP interior. This first aircraft will have a “transitional cabin”, as the new interior will occupy only a part of the available cabin space, and the rest will remain in the airline’s standard configuration. The difference between the facilities is that the final VIP interior must have meeting rooms, presidential suite, official office and support staff wing, among others.
El gobierno de Francia también utiliza un Airbus A330-200, fabricado por el consorcio aeronáutico en el que participa este país junto a Alemania, España y, hasta octubre de 2006, el Reino Unido a través de la empresa BAE. En ese caso se trata de un bimotor A330 modificado para servir para los desplazamientos oficiales y como centro de mando para los presidentes galos. Actualmente es Emmanuel Macron, quien utiliza los servicios del avión presidencial. Con una capacidad original de 324 asientos, ha sido transformado en un avión VIP de unas sesenta plazas. Incorpora un dormitorio, cuartos de baño y sala reuniones a prueba de ruido, así como con todos los medios modernos, seguros y fiables de seguridad y comunicación. El Ejército del Aire Francés es el organismo encargado de operar los aviones presidenciales, al mismo tiempo que gestiona la seguridad y logística de sus viajes. El Ministerio de Defensa de Francia tiene asignados dos escuadrones que administran la operación y mantenimiento de las aeronaves a disposición de la presidencia de la república de Francia.
El moderno avión presidencial de México se ha vuelto famoso no por su equipamiento especial y su interior verdaderamente lujoso, sino por el escándalo político que ha provocado. De hecho, este Boeing 787 Dreamliner con un valor de 130 millones de dólares, ha propiciado que el presidente actual, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, se haya empeñado deshacerse de lo que considera una ostentación innecesaria. El presidente prometió en las últimas elecciones que si era elegido vendería el avión y devolvería las ganancias al pueblo para terminar con la corrupción y erradicar la desigualdad. Desde que ganó con una aplastante victoria la cita electoral de 2018, ha intentado vender, rifar o utilizar el avión como un modo de recaudar fondos para causas sociales. No obstante, su intento fracasó al toparse con la realidad: el mercado de aviones personalizados de segunda mano es pequeño y el mantenimiento de un Boeing Dreamliner podría llevar a la ruina a un ciudadano común. Después de muchos intentos y recursos dedicados a intentar deshacerse de este avión, permanece estacionado en su hangar en México, a la espera de un comprador adecuado.