How Air Force One works
By Marshall Brain
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Air Force One is something you see in the news all the time. It is the flying White House, able to carry the president and 100 advisors and journalists across the country or around the world.
To create Air Force One, engineers started with two 747-200Bs. Yes, there are two identical Air Force Ones, so that the President can fly even when one of the planes needs maintenance. These planes are gigantic - more than 200 feet long and with three levels inside.
Inside, Air Force One looks nothing like a "normal" 747, the ones you see operated by commercial airlines. Instead of installing rows of seats, engineers looked at this airplane completely differently. They started with 4,000 square feet of floor space and started designing a deluxe flying office and hotel for the most powerful person in the world. As you walk around inside Air Force One, you realize just how unique this airplane really is.
There are three ways to board Air Force One. The president and dignitaries typically get on and off the plane using the main entrance on the middle level. Staff and crew use a door on the lower level, just underneath the main entrance. And journalists use a door on the lower level at the back of the plane. Let's assume that you board the jet with the president. As you walk through the door you are standing in a small foyer area on the middle deck.
To your left, toward the nose of the plane, is the presidential suite. There is a spacious office for the president, a surprising medical room, a private bathroom and a bedroom. The office has a large desk and comfortable executive seating. The bedroom and bathroom have all the comforts of home. And the medical room can handle nearly any emergency. There is a surgeon who flies with the president, and the medical room includes a complete pharmacy, x-ray equipment, emergency equipment and even an operating table.
Immediately in front of you are staircases to the upper and lower decks along with a small lounge area.
To your right the plane looks like an office suite. You walk down a hallway past the galley on your left. This kitchen is able to serve 100 people at a time, and freezers on the lower level hold up to 2,000 meals. On your right are relaxed seating areas. Just past the galley is a large conference room that takes up nearly the entire width of the plane. It comes complete with a large conference table, television sets and computers, and sectional seating along the walls. This room can comfortably accommodate 20 people.
Past the conference room is a workroom with tables and chairs for smaller meetings. Beyond that is the rear seating area and restroom. This seating area is set up with rows of seats like you might find in a First Class cabin of a commercial jet.
The upper deck is smaller and contains the airplane's cockpit, a second galley and lounge area and a communication room filled with equipment and computers. This room makes it possible for the president to talk to anyone in the world and to communicate securely with the Pentagon.
The technology doesn't stop there. Air Force One has a number of features not available on your normal 747. For example, Air Force One can handle aerial refueling so that, in an emergency, the plane does not have to land. The plane also has electronic countermeasures equipment that can help jam enemy radar. It also has a flare system that can outwit heat-seeking missiles.
Air Force One is truly a unique aircraft. Even so, the Air Force is starting to consider its replacement. It has been in service since the 1990s, and after 15 years it is getting to be time for a new model. The Air Force could use new 747s, or it might go with the A380 - currently the largest commercial plane available. It will be fascinating to see what the next generation of Air Force One looks like.
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© 2007, How Stuff Works Inc. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.