While Air Force One is technically used to designate any Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the USA, it is most often used to refer to one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft.
You might be wondering how long Air Force One, which is a 747-200B aircraft and designated VC-25A, can stay in the air.
Well, the answer depends on if we take into account midair refueling or not, which Air Force One is capable of.
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How Long Air Force One Can Stay in the Air
Air Force One refers to one of two Boeing 747-200B aircraft.
While Air Force One planes are highly customized, according to Boeing, the 747-200 has a range of 7,800 miles (12,550 km).
So at a minimum, we can say that Air Force One has a range of 7,800 miles (12,550 km) without refueling, though Boeing state that the plane has a “longer range for presidential travel.”
Therefore, in all likelihood, Air Force One has a range greater than 8,000 miles, though its exact range without refueling is unknown due to the customization of the plane and this information not being publically available.
According to Colonel Robert D. “Danny” Barr, who served under President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, he once flew Air Force One for 14 hours and 45 minutes on a trip to Saudi Arabia.
This was approximately 6,700 miles, though, of course, Air Force One would never be pushed to its limits and flown to its maximum range due to the danger involved.
As Air Force One can be refueled midair, technically it can stay in the air indefinitely.
However, in practice this would not work, as there are several limitations that would prevent this.
Why Air Force One Can’t Stay in the Air Indefinitely
While Air Force One can technically stay in the air indefinitely due to midair refueling, there are other factors to consider.
Firstly, the President, crew and other passengers onboard would eventually run out of supplies, namely drinking water.
Portable water is heavy, and carrying it on onboard for 70 people, which is the seated capacity of Air Force One, would weigh a significant amount for anything longer than a few days.
Engine lubrication is another concern.
It’s generally recommended that aircraft engine oil should be replaced every 50 hours, otherwise the oil would turn to sludge and get contaminated, which would damage the engine.
We can, therefore, estimate that Air Force One can realistically stay in the air for 2-3 days despite its capability of midair refueling.
Air Force One Uses Jet-A Fuel
Air Force One uses Jet-A aviation turbine fuel.
In the USA, Jet A is the standard specification fuel, whereas in the rest of the world, Jet A-1 is the standard specification fuel used.
Air Force One is Very Fast
Air Force One has a top speed of approximately 600 mph and can reach an altitude of 45,100 feet.
For comparison, a Boeing 747-8 has a top speed of 614 mph and can reach an altitude of 43,000 ft.
The speed of sound is 761 mph.
Marine One Has a Much Shorter Range
Marine One refers to either the Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King or the Sikorsky VH-60N “White Hawk”, which are the helicopters used to transport the President of the USA.
The Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King has a range of 621 miles (1,000 km), and the Sikorsky VH-60N “White Hawk” has a range of 1,199 miles (2,221 km).
Air Force One is Huge
If you’re wondering how big Air Force One is, the answer is that it is 231 feet 10 inches or 70.66 meters long, with a wingspan of 231 feet 10 inches or 70.66 meters long, and stands at 64 feet 6 inches or 19.35 meters.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.