Will Air Force One be a downgrade for President-elect Trump?

Trump's Air Force One

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said he will “streamline” the process of building new Air Force One aircraft after meeting President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday. Mr. Trump tweeted last month that costs in the program to build two new planes are “out of control.”

The president-elect will use the existing jets when he takes office.

When asked what they miss most about the presidency, former presidents often say Air Force One. But in the case of Donald Trump, the transition from one wide-body plane to a wider-bodied plane might be considered a downgrade, reports CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg.

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One of the most recognizable symbols of American power, Air Force One tells the world the president has arrived.
But Air Force One isn’t just a plane, it’s a military designation for any Air Force plane the president might be flying. The first plane officially called Air Force One carried President Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, but it was President John F. Kennedy who brought the plane into the jet age.

The current fleet is comprised of two specially-modified Boeing 747s, first used by President Geroge H. W. Bush in 1990. The two planes have carried every president since, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama – at a cost of over $180,000 per hour.

Steve Chealander served onboard Air Force One as a military aide to President Ronald Reagan.

“It’s still the White House and it’s in constant contact and he is still commander in chief anywhere he is in the world,” Chealander said. “Now to say you couldn’t do that on President-elect Trump’s aircraft, I wouldn’t say that. It just seems to me you would have to do a lot of retrofit to make it happen.”

Mr. Trump’s plane has a far different history. Also made by Boeing, the 757 entered service in 1991 with Sterling Airlines, a low-cost Danish airline. It then flew for a Mexican charter company called Taesa, before being sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who then sold it to Mr. Trump in 2010. That’s when the real refurbishment began.

Gregg Launer’s company Skytheater designed the plane’s entertainment system.

“He has a special T-button designed for him, and when he presses that T-button, it overrides everybody else,” Launer said.

From nose to tail, Mr. Trump’s plane is smaller than Air Force One. It can only fly up to 4,400 miles and carry 43 passengers. Air Force One can fly up to 7,800 miles, with over 70 passengers.

It contains state-of-the-art defenses that include: in-flight refueling capabilities, a top secret anti-missile system, and a blast-resistant outer skin, rumored to withstand a nuclear blast.

“It doesn’t shoot back so it’s just going to be able to defend itself until we can get our firefighters to us,” Chealander said.

While Air Force One has an onboard hospital, Mr. Trump’s 757 boasts 24-karat gold-plated seat belts and bathroom fittings, plush carpets, cream-colored leather seats and an entertainment center with over 1,000 movie titles branded with Mr. Trump’s name.

But after Friday, the only brand found onboard the plane carrying Mr. Trump will be the seal of the president.

Incoming presidents tend not to redecorate Air Force One like they do the White House. One exception is Lyndon Johnson, who is said to have installed a secret recording system to eavesdrop on conversations onboard. A few years later, Richard Nixon ordered the wiretaps removed from the plane, but not from the Oval Office.