Can a US president use a personally owned jet with the call sign AF1? Would the Air Force be obligated to add security and defense measure to this aircraft if the president refused to fly in the VC-25?

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    $\begingroup$ Not really about aviation. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ The premise of the question is about an aircraft, though it is hypothetical in nature. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ Making this question more general might help it get reopened. The question about callsign seems on-topic. The question about converting other aircraft is pretty much covered here. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DecKonroyd no, it's about a call sign, not an aircraft. None of the aircraft would "be" "air force one" if the president weren't on board, so no, there's never more than one AF1, and most of the time there isn't one at all. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ The revision by @digitgopher improved this quite a lot. Voting to reopen. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 6:45

1 Answer 1


Air Force One is the call sign of whatever USAF aircraft (see @slookabill's comment below) the US President travels in. Once he boards another aircraft, the call sign AF1 is transferred to that aircraft (for a dramatic example of this, see the climax of Air Force One movie).

If a president were to fly in their own aircraft (or commercially) the appropriate ATC call sign would be Executive One.

As far as fitting out a personal aircraft, the VC-25s are USAF assets (operated by 89 AW) and are highly customised and specifically configured for the job of transporting the president (and support staff), costing over $300 million. I doubt any president is going to get the option of flying their favorite aircraft on a regular basis instead of the state aircraft.

It is not likely that the government would pay to configure another (non-USAF) aircraft for the president to the same specifications as the VC-25s serving as Air Force One. After all no US President's personal car has been configured as the Presidential State Car so far.

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    $\begingroup$ Technically, Air Force One, is the callsign if the president is flying an Air Force Aircraft. When he's flying with the Marines, it's Marine One(mostly the helicopters), when he's flying the Navy, it's Navy One. When he's flying commercial(and it's technically possible), it's Executive One. $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ Just as a matter of trivia, the tail numbers for the two VC-25s are SAM28000 and SAM 29000. SAM as I remember stands for Special Air Mission. Back in the Clinton days, they used to show up at Tel Aviv and preempt our usual parking area. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ Just to keep things in perspective, the modifications made to the VC-25s to make them the President's planes are not all that expensive; a new 747-8 right off the production line for practically any commercial airline would cost over \$300 million as well. Now, if you're saying the Air Force spent an additional \$300 million over the cost of the airframe itself, source? $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @aeroalias - Understood. Actually though, I looked it up, and a Politico report on replacing the VC-25s with new 748-based airframes (politico.com/story/2015/01/air-force-one-boeing-747-8-114689) puts the cost at \$1.7 billion over five years. It's unclear whether that cost includes operation of the existing VC-25s while the new ones are built, but pessimistically it means each one will cost \$850 million, making the mods to each \$325 million airframe substantially more expensive than the plane itself. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ Side note: George Bush once flew a "secret" mission to join the troops in Iraq for thanksgiving dinner. He flew on the VC-25, however the aircraft operated under a normal callsign, and filed it's flight plan as "Type: Gulfstream 5", in order to keep the mission a secret. They were almost rumbled over the UK, when another pilot contacted ATC, asking them if that was 'Air Force 1' below them. ATC replied saying no, that's a Gulfstream. It would probably have been far easier to just fly the president out on an actual G5, at least from a secrecy perspective, but they chose this way instead. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 11:15

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