How safe is AirForce One?

I don’t know if this kind of question belongs in this thread or if it sounds offensive or threatening but excuse me if it does - I was just wondering - how safe is the Air Force One of the US President from attacks? I mean, any terrorist or plain insane person who has the resources can get a shoulder-fired missile and shoot the plane down from a rooftop or under a tree. This scenario is not all too impossible I suppose if somebody really wants to kill the President given the possibilities, and breakthrough in technology today.

Yesterday, Bush was in the Philippines on an 8-hour state visit. As soon as Air Force One took off for Bangkok a horrible thought crossed my mind - what if some terrorist had a stinger and shot down his plane from a nearby tree? How safe is Air Force One each time it lands and takes off? What does the Secret Service think about this? How secure is the President from such attacks?
Just wondrin…

WAG on my part but I would think that take off would probably be the most vulnerable point.

BTW The term “Air Force One” refers to any Air Force vehicle that carries the POTUS. Not necessarily the two 747s which have anti-pulse technology radar scrambling ability and countermeasures for missile attacks. Usually the POTUS will have an escort of F16 C’s overhead during takeoff/flight/landing, not to mention a small army of security on the ground.

On 911 when Bush left Fla. via A/F1 It was so sudden he was boarded and in flight without security and no escort of fighters. If this had this been anticipated by the terrorists, AF1 could have probably been destroyed as well.

The safety of Air Force One doesn’t just depend on the actual aircraft, it also depends on the huge amount of ground security.

In most cases the president departs on AF1 from a millitary base, like Andrews AFB, where there is a huge amount of security. Secret service sweep the airfield prior to the presiddents arrival and there are millitary personal and snipers guarding the area.

AF1 rarely has an escort during takeoff, unless in a particularly dangerous area, the most dangerous part of a flight for ANY aircraft is taking off and landing.

The USA airforce and government are very hush-hush about the features on AF1, but we do know that it has anti-missile systems and can withstand a nuclear pulse. Some other features are state of the art communications room where the president can contact someone anywhere in the world, and a medical room with operating facilities, although that has never been used.

The plane can stay airborne indefinatley as it can be refuelled mid-air.

I think it would be devilishly difficult for anyone to launch a shoulder-fired missle at one of the two 747’s the president travels in for reasons that t-keela mentions. Those planes have some of the best countermeasures our air-force has in its inventory.

One of the smaller “buisness type” jets attached to the 82nd airwing(?) maybe, but not the 747’s

If you consider the fighter escort which the president is most assuredly going to fly with, I think it is impossible to bring down any of the planes that the president flies on, with shoulder fired missles, or anything less than a squadron of our own F-16’s.

I am sure the airborne time is limited by necessary maintenance, although I have no idea what that means practically. Hours? Days? Weeks? Even longer?

I had a random thought when I saw the thread title.

On the main planes used as Air Force One – the 747s for intercontinential travel, or the normal size planes (727s??) for continential US travel – do they do the FAA safety briefing before takeoff?

The old 707’s that were the previous A/F-1 are now retired. As mentioned above, the President most often travels on one of two 747’s (called VC-25A by the USAF): tail numbers 28000 and 29000

Although any plane with the President embarked is given the call sign “Air Force One” in the air, these are what the Pres uses for almost all air travel, foreign or domestic.

The 89th Airlift wing operates a number of other aircraft for VIP travel:
C-9C Nightingale (DC-9 used for casualty evac)
C-20A/H (Gulfstream III/IV)
C-32A (Boeing 757, used for First Lady, VP, other top officials)
C-37A (Gulfstream V)
C-137 (Boeing 707’s being phased out)

paperbackwriter wrote: Although any plane with the President embarked is given the call sign “Air Force One” in the air, these are what the Pres uses for almost all air travel, foreign or domestic.
Hmmmmm… not true paperbackwriter.

If the POTUS is aboard a Marine helecpoter, that is called Marine One. If he is aboard a Navy fighter jet, that is called Navy One. So it depends on which branch of the service that owns the aircraft as to what it is called.

When my dad worked on AWACS he told me the limiting time for staying airborn was the oil in the engines. They lasted about 3 days of constant flying, then had to land. I imagine in an emergency they could go longer.

Not sure how the AWACS (707) engines stack up to the AF1 engines.

Or, if he is on a civilian aircraft, it’s Executive One.

If he’s getting cash from an ATM, does that make it Bank One?

You are going to have to explain to somebody why you are wandering around 300 yards off the end of the runway that the pres is about to take off from. If it was easy, somebody would have done it, or at least tried(and I’m not here to say they haven’t).

Only as long as it can glide. Unlibricated turbine engines have extremely short life spans.

OK, you are completely correct. I should have said “any USAF plane…” I thought it was obvious from the context and the OP that I was limiting that statement to the only service mentioned to that point, but I guess not.

I think the OP overestimates how ‘easy’ it is to get your hands on a shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile. Even terrorists have a hard time getting and using them. The shelf life of a Stinger is not very long. IIRC after a year or two (dim memory) they aren’t good for much.

Anecdotal evidence at least should give you an idea of this. It is very rare for terrorists to take pot-shots at airliners. I can hardly remeber this ever happening. There was a case recently (several months ago) where some shots were taken at an El Al flight and they missed (and that was just a vanilla commercial jet). Try the same thing against VC-25A and you have a hard target not to mention you will likely be swarmed by police, secret service and who knows who else.

As for the bit about what constitutes Air Force One there have been a few cases where the call sign changed mid-flight. Off of the top of my head it happened to Lyndon Johnson when he was sworn in as president aboard a flight back to Washington after Kennedy was shot. Immediately after being sworn in the pilots radioed a new call sign designating their flight as Air Force One. The reverse happened, I think, when Nixon resigned. He was flying home when his resignation took effect. The pilots radioed in and gave-up the Air Force One designation (at least I think it happend that way for Nixon).