The Boeing 747 is one of the most iconic airliners ever built. Having first flown commercially with Pan Am in 1970, the type has been gracing the world’s skies for half a century. Many of the type have since been retired. However, one such example has found a new lease of life on the ground in recent years – as a replica of ‘Air Force One.’
What is Air Force One?
In actual fact, Air Force One is not a specific aircraft, but rather the callsign for any aircraft carrying the President of the United States. The first aircraft used specifically for this purpose was a Douglas Dolphin Amphibian. President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled on this aircraft from 1933 until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Today, however, the term has become synonymous with two Boeing VC-25A aircraft operated by the United States Air Force. These aircraft are extensively modified versions of the Boeing 747-200, and bear the tail numbers 28000 and 29000. As opposed to a conventional passenger cabin, the aircraft are configured with features such as meeting rooms. They also boast a strong inflight defense system in case of attack.
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However, these aircraft are coming towards the end of their services, having been delivered to the USAF in 1990. As such, in 2024, the US will replace these with a newer model, the Boeing VC-25B. These two aircraft will be heavily modified versions of the Boeing 747-8, which boast a more impressive range, efficiency, and cruise speed than its predecessor.
While Air Force One is a subject of fascination for avgeeks worldwide, an everyday person’s chances of stepping onboard are remote. As such, the need for a replica model for the general public to access and learn from was identified. In 2016, WJAR reported that a Boeing 747-200F, sitting dormant (costing $2,000 a week) at Quonset State Airport, Rhode Island, was in the pipeline for such a project.
Refurbishment took place in 2017, and this was both an internal and external process. The aircraft in question, which previously bore the registration N485EV, now sports an identical livery to the USAF’s two active Boeing VC25-A aircraft. The internal refurbishment features a “re-created forward cabin of Air Force One – including the Conference Room, the Presidential Office, and the sleeping quarters of the President.”
“Our mission is to educate the next generation of American citizens about the importance of democracy, civic responsibility, and the right to vote.”
The ‘Air Force One Experience‘ exhibit has an educational purpose, and consists of a three-part hour-long self-guided tour in and around the aircraft. It is currently only open to school groups. The aircraft can be transported by barge, and, as such, has been exhibited in both Washington, D.C. and New York in recent years.
A long and varied career
Before becoming the aforementioned Air Force One replica, N485EV enjoyed a rather diverse service life. According to Planespotters.net, this Boeing 747-200 was first delivered to Singapore Airlines in 1973. It also saw passenger service with Flying Tiger Line and Pan Am, before undergoing a cargo conversion.
It entered service as a freighter with Evergreen International Airlines in 1991, before being leased to Saudi Arabian Airlines a year later. The aircraft returned to Evergreen in 2002, and was eventually withdrawn after nearly 40 years of service in 2012.
Funnily enough, this is not the first time an Evergreen 747 has gone on to serve a different function after its withdrawal. Indeed, another example now sits atop a waterpark in Oregon! Although it is a shame that today’s skies are graced by fewer 747s, it is refreshing that some can still be enjoyed for other ground-based functions.