Obama came to Greece and then to Germany. That's a long trip, even for the majestic Jumbo. There was a lot of discussion about where the aircraft was refuelled during that trip. Do we know, in general, where Air Force One is refueled?

There were claims that it was refuelled in the air by American aircraft, but isn't that more costly than refuelling on the ground?

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    $\begingroup$ Relevant: after Germany, they headed to Lima, Peru, a distance too far to fly without refueling. As such, they landed at Lajes Air Base, Azores for a brief stop to refuel, then proceeded to Lima. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @ZachLipton a "a United States Air Force detachment unit", as Wiki mentions. $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ To add a last note to the answers: Mid air refuelling is dangerous. You don't want to to it with a president onboard unless you have a VERY good reason to do so. $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ Note: technically speaking, "Air Force One" is the callsign of any Air Force aircraft while the president is on-board, and only while the president is on board. The two VC-25As are equipped for mid-air refueling, and I am guessing, they sometimes do refuel in mid-air, but according to the quote in @ymb1's answer, they never refuel in mid-air with the president on board, which means never when they are actually acting as "Air Force One". $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 10:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think they should re-fuel the one that he's not on, and then transfer him to the other one in mid-air. historyinsidepictures.com/siteimages/AIR%20B11.JPG $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 1:00

3 Answers 3


According to the Washington Post, Air Force One never refueled in mid-air with the president on board.

If it needs to refuel, it usually does so at one of the U.S. military bases across the world.

The retrofitted Boeing 747 that usually serves as the presidential jet can indeed refuel in flight — but it has never done so with the president on board, military officials say.

It has enough range to fly from Washington to Iraq without needing more fuel. On longer trips to Asia, it typically stops at U.S. military bases in Alaska or Germany.

Five myths about presidential travel

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    $\begingroup$ As a Greek citizen I can confirm the fact with the military bases . . . :) $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 20:10

I can't confirm whether either VC-25 has refueled in flight while acting as AF1 but the aircraft is so equipped for the job.

I do know refueling on the ground depends on where the jet is and the quantity and quality of fuel available onsite. The USAF insists on using fuel that it supplies for security reasons. For operations in Western Europe the fuel is trucked in from nearby military bases. When the jet visits more remote nations such as in Africa or Asia, fuel is flown out to the jet in fuel trucks loaded aboard C-17s. Strangely enough, this is really how it works!

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    $\begingroup$ I was stationed at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, during a Presidential trip to Asia, and detailed to assist during the layover to refuel both VC-25s. (Yep, always bring a spare jumbo jet when flying overseas ;) The fuel for the planes was loaded onto refueling trucks in advance, and after it was tested the trucks were kept under special guard on the flightline to ensure it wasn't tampered with. $\endgroup$
    – feetwet
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 19:40

The VC-25A (which is usually used as Air Force One) can definitely make the trip from Washington D.C. to Athens in one fuel tank! I think the longest the VC-25A has gone without refuelling is from Washington D.C. straight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (although this is only done in advantageous wind conditions. 70% of the time, the plane stops in Ramstein Air Base or RAF Mildenhall to refuel before continuing on to Riyadh.)

Usually, if Air Force One decides to refuel, it does so 90% of the time at one of the five following bases:

  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (Alaska)
  • Ramstein Air Base (Germany)
  • RAF Mildenhall (United Kingdom)
  • Hickam AFB (Hawaii)
  • Yokota Air Base (Japan)

These five air bases are located so strategically throughout the world that the VC-25A rarely needs to stop elsewhere for fuel. There are, of course, exceptions, such as when President Trump flew to Vietnam in 2019, he took off from Washington, refuelled at RAF Mildenhall (one of the five bases mentioned above) and then refuelled another time at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar before finally making it to Hanoi. And YUP you read that right, he really did stop two times just to refuel, which is rare but not unprecedented. President Obama also stopped two times when he went to Vietnam back in 2016: first at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and then another stop at Yokota Air Base (both bases were mentioned above) before finally reaching Hanoi.

Hope this helps!

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    $\begingroup$ Quite a comprehensive answer! Citing sources would make it even better. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented May 20 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @randomhead! Tracking presidential planes is a professional hobby of mine. There is no news about this so I don't have a source... This is all done from my own observations on the matter. You can look over them yourself through the official press digests or flight history! Thanks for commenting though! $\endgroup$
    – Nam Ba Vo
    Commented May 20 at 6:19

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