It costs about $200,000 to operate Air Force One -- here's why it's so expensive

Boeing VC 25A Air Force OneWikimedia CommonsBoth Boeing VC-25A presidential transports.

Over the past couple of weeks, the exorbitant cost of Presidential travel has made its way into the spot light.

In fact, President Trump’s travel itinerary has cost US tax payers more than $US10 million dollars during his first month in office, the Washington Post reported.

Presidential travel is a highly complex logistical operation involving hundreds of people, dozens of vehicles, and a fleet of aircraft.

As as a result, it easy to see how the bill can skyrocket very quickly.

So what does this operation entail?

First, there’s Air Force One — the call sign given to the Boeing VC-25A when the President is on-board. However, it’s actually two planes. The VC-25A is a highly modified version of the Boeing 747-200B airliner. Even though it entered service in 199o with President George H.W. Bush, the jets — tail number 28000 and 29000 — were ordered in the mid-1980s by President Reagan.

According to Boeing, each aircraft carries a crew of 26 along with roughly 70 passengers which includes the Presidents, governments officials, secret services agents, and guests. The 4,000 sq. ft. space in the VC-25A’s cabin allows the aircraft to function as a flying White House with the ability to run a country from 40,000 ft. At the same time, the 747-200B’s General Electric CF6-50 Series engines with the more powerful CF6-80 Series engines from the newer 747-300.

Other presidential upgrades include:

  • Midair refuelling capability
  • Missile defence systems
  • Electronic countermeasure defence systems
  • An operating room
  • The ability survive the electromagnetic pulse emitted from a nuclear detonation
  • The communications capabilities to manage a wartime crisis from anywhere in the world

On major trips, both VC-25As make the trip — one with the President on board, the other as the back up plane in case of emergency.

According to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Judicial Watch, the VC-25A cost a whopping $US206,000 an hour to operate during a 2014 trip to Los Angeles by President Obama. According to the documents, this figure includes fuel, flight consumables, and maintenance.

This far exceeds the cost $US20,000 to $US25,000 it costs an airline to operate a commercial 747, Airways senior business analyst Vinay Bhaskara told Business Insider in an email.

The VC-25As are operated by the Presidential Airlift Group at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland is part of the US Air Force’s 89th Airlift Wing.

Other travel costs

Then there’s are the limos. Affectionately known as “The Beast”, the Presidential limos are heavy-duty armoured vehicles built on General Motors commercial truck platforms with a Cadillac body. These monsters feature everything from full-ballistic protection to an on-board cache of blood for the President in case of a medical emergency.

According to Autoweek, each one of President Obama’s 12 Beast Limo cost $US1.5 million. President Trump will get a new version of the Beast. It’s unclear how much the new model will cost.

On trips, these limos travel ahead with the advance team so that they are waiting for the President once his plane arrives. This means they have to be transported ahead of time in a fleet of Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.

And in instances when the President is in a hurry, he has the option to bypass the Beast and go with the Marine One, the call sign for the Presidential helicopter. The helicopters — Sikorsky VH-3D Sea Kings, VH-60N, or MV-22 — usually fly in a formation of three. These are operated by the Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1)in Quantico, Virginia.

So there you have it. Why is it so expensive for the President to fly? It’s the custom jumbo jet, the staff and crew needed to man the planes, the limos needed to transport the President to the plane, the cargo plane needed to transport the limos, and the helicopters in case the President wants to skip the car ride.

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