So, it's well known that the government planes operated for the US President are called Air Force One; less well-known is that this is a call sign given to any Air Force aircraft that carry the president, and that if the President rides in an aircraft owned by another branch of the US Armed Forces, they would become known as Marines One, Navy One, or Army One, while any civil aircraft that carries the US President becomes Executive One.

What about aircraft that are exceptions to the normal FAA rules for aircraft licensing, however? If the US President was riding in (or piloting) a glider, ultralight, or autonomous drone taxi, what would their call signs be, if any?

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    $\begingroup$ "any civil aircraft that carries the US President becomes Executive One" Doesn't this already answer your question? Why wouldn't a glider, ultralight, etc. qualify as "Executive One"? $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 1:19

1 Answer 1


This question is unanswerable in its present state. A glider is a certified and registered aircraft in the US. Ultralights are not register aircraft in the US. And, they are not typically in contact with ATC. Autonomous drone taxis have yet to receive FAA certification, airworthiness, and registration. So, the best manufacturers can do with drones at this time is to fly them unmanned or on test flights.

The bigger question is whether the Secret Service would allow the president to pilot any aircraft. Let alone fly in a non-certified, unregistered aircraft. After all, they do not allow the president to drive a car while he is in office.

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    $\begingroup$ All the President needs to fly a plane or drive a car is the appropriate licence. The Secret Service works for the President, not the other way around. All the Secret Service can do is make recommendations to the President, and remind the President of their diminished ability to protect the President if their recommendations aren't followed. $\endgroup$
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RossRidge: I get the impression that most Presidents take those recommendations very seriously, though. Good point that one could choose not to follow a recommendation, but generally they don't want to antagonize people who's literal job is to keep them safe. Still, exceptional circumstances can happen, especially in fiction (movies like Air Force One, or you could imagine that having everyone hop into some conveniently-present ultralight aircraft would be safer than staying somewhere when a tsunami was coming, or whatever other Hollywood situation.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 4:05
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    $\begingroup$ @RossRidge - Actually, Secret Service works for Homeland Security. Presidents work for the people. Each has requirements and restrictions for their job. Presidents Biden, Obama, Bush 43, Clinton (and wife), and Reagan have all commented at various times how they are not “allowed” to drive even after they leave office. Let alone fly an airplane. The last president to drive was reportedly LBJ. From my understanding, although there is no actual law that says POTUS can not drive, there is one that says POTUS can not refuse the protection of Secret Service. And, their job is to protect POTUS. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ The whole trip was pretty much a stunt, but #43 reportedly manipulated the controls of Navy 1 on the flight out the carrier; albeit not as PIC. Reportedly he wanted an F18, but the secret service bargained him down to an S-3B with room for a second pilot and one agent. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ @RossRidge - By the way. Both President Bush 41 and 43 were pilots. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 5:48

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