61
$\begingroup$

Aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of at least 300,000 pounds add the word "Heavy" to their callsign. (Example: Lufthansa 415 Heavy in this video.) The current Presidential 747's have a maximum takeoff weight of 833,000 pounds. Yet, it flies (when the President is on board) with the callsign "Air Force One", not "Air Force One Heavy."

Why not?

$\endgroup$
92
$\begingroup$

Practically speaking, the 'heavy' designator ('super' for A380 and An225) is to help enforce separation requirements due to wake turbulence. In case of AF1, it is not as if other aircraft are going to be allowed near it, so the designator is redundant.

Regulation wise, FAA JO 7110.65T Section 4. Radio and Interphone Communications, specifically states that the 'heavy' designator should not be used:

  1. When in radio communications with “Air Force One” or “Air Force Two,” do not add the heavy designator to the call sign. State only the call sign “Air Force One/Two” regardless of the type aircraft.
$\endgroup$
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ @Nij I was under the impression the call sign of an aircraft is "Air Force One" if and only if the POTUS is on board. $\endgroup$ – Angew Feb 25 '17 at 9:30
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ @Angew: Not "an aircraft", only some aircraft: the call sign of any and all US Air Force aircraft that the president is currently on, is "Air Force One", only for the time the president is on it. (See the final climax of the eponymous Harrison Ford movie for a heavily dramatized but surprisingly accurate example – the only realistic second of the entire movie.) If it is a US Marines aircraft, the callsign is "Marine One" instead. For a US Navy aircraft, it is "Navy One". For a commercial aircraft, it is "Executive One". $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Feb 25 '17 at 10:22
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ A good example - when it was made very obvious - is how the plane flying Pres. Richard Nixon changed it's call-sign in mid-flight from "Air Force One" to SAM27000 (it's "real"/normal call-sign) at noon, when Nixon's letter of resignation took effect and Ford became President. Also the same system for "Marine One" - the helicopter... and if the President was on a navy-ship (or I assume a navy-plane), it would be "Navy One". $\endgroup$ – Baard Kopperud Feb 25 '17 at 13:54
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Nij I seriously doubt the lack of heavy designation has anything to do with security. If that were the case why give the president his own call sign at all? If subterfuge was necessary they would simply leave its designator as it is when he's not on it and not paint it with special livery. The whole idea of the AF1 designator is to indicate its protected status. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Feb 25 '17 at 19:05
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @digitgopher do you think when AF1 flies, they let other planes get close enough to be in its wake? As for what ensures no other aircraft gets close, I'm sure the Air Force fighter jets that fly with it provide a good enough deterrent :P Edit: Here's an article mentioning the FAA is investigating a plane that came within 3 nautical miles of AF1 this month. $\endgroup$ – BruceWayne Feb 26 '17 at 4:20
23
$\begingroup$

The purpose of the "heavy" designator is create situational awareness because of its wake turbulence. There are also different separation requirements when following a heavy aircraft. Since all air traffic around Air Force 1 is likely to be heavily controlled, there's no need to call out that it's a heavy.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.