Even football gets a spot on Air Force One. While we’re sure there’ve been plenty of US presidents who’ve been fans of the sport, we’re not speaking about the football they play on the field. The nuclear football refers to a briefcase containing documents that the US president uses to communicate and authorize a nuclear attack when away from a fixed command center. In short, it’s the president’s traveling package for a nuclear war.
Generally, one of the president’s rotating military aides keeps the documents with him so that the president has quick access to them. The interesting part is that on Air Force One, a safe or vault has been installed specifically for nuclear football. So, even if the president is at dizzying heights, he can still respond effectively to a nuclear crisis.
FDR Created the Presidential Pilot Office
The Presidential Pilot Office’s sole mission is to transport the US president. This office is already several decades old, as it was something that Franklin D. Roosevelt created during his tenure. In 1941, Roosevelt declared that grounds in Maryland were to be used for an airfield. A year later, construction began, and the following year, the airbase became operational.
Though it has seen plenty of changes in the last decades, the Presidential Pilot Office is still located at this airbase, Andrews AFB, MD. Interestingly, the Presidential Pilot Office derived the name Andrews AFB, to honor Lieutenant General Frank Maxwell Andrews, the commander of the general headquarters of the US Air Force during WW2.
The Typical Motorcade
No, it’s not just something that you see in the movies. The Motorcade is a real thing. A motorcade is a precession or convoy of vehicles that is used for transporting the president. After traveling in Air Force One, the president will disembark and climb into an armored limo. Yeah, that’s a thing too. So, how exactly is the president’s armored vehicle waiting for him when he disembarks?
The incredible thing is the cargo plane, C-141 Starlifter, travels ahead of Air Force One. As you guessed, the C-141 Starlifter is carrying the president’s armored tank, a.k.a “The Beast”. That means even if the US president is traveling to another country, his motorcade will be ready to safely transport him within foreign boundaries.
The Presidential Suite
As Air Force One is one of the most luxurious airliners, it’s not surprising that there’s a suite just for the president. Situated in the nose of the plane, the presidential suite is made up of a private restroom and foldable sofas. Space is limited, but the designers worked around this as the sofas, when folded out, can be used as beds.
Back during Raegan’s tenure, the then First Lady, Nancy Raegan, had the interior decorated in southwestern décor, probably to pay homage to her husband’s acting days in B-grade Western films. Nancy Raegan certainly left her mark on Air Force One, as the theme is still maintained.
“Air Force One” Meets Air Force One
Of course, the best way to prepare for a film is to have real-life experience. And Wolfgang Petersen and the “Air Force One” crew got their opportunity when making the action thriller. In fact, after their real-life tour, the crew used this experience to help them create the film’s storyline. The Russian terrorists in the film disguised themselves as journalists, as during their tour, they learned that journalists could board the plane with the president.
Interestingly, Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell, who was played by Donna Bullock, was based on the real-life tour guide. The film crew may have gotten a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour the presidential plane, but for the filming, they had to rent out a Boeing 747 146 aircraft, which was painted in standard Air Force One pattern.