Presidents and Their Planes

It is unsurprising that airplane charters play an integral role in the lives of presidents.

Presidents and their planes have held the fascination and imagination of millions for many decades – but why the need for specially-formulated craft for heads of state and why do presidents need this mode of aerial transport to get them to and from their destinations? Why, instead, don’t presidents and their delegations simply fly first class to and from where they need to get to?

The answer is quite simple, really. The first reason would obviously be safety and security and the second is convenience – especially as far as getting to unusual and out of the way destinations.

History of private chartered planes for presidents:

  • Did you know that the very first head of state that received a dedicated airplane charter was none other than the British Monarch?
  • In 1928 the Royal Family received two Westland Wapitis which were delivered to number 24 Squadron at RAF Northolt.
  • Between 1929 and 1935 the then Prince of Wales, Edward, invested in 13 aircraft and although the RAF at first took care of one of the craft, he later took full responsibility over the entire fleet.
  • When Edward the V111 became king in 1939 the King’s Flight was the world’s first head of state plane.







  • The Sacred Cow was the nickname of President Franklin D Roosevelt’s C-54 Skymaster.
  • In the United States, before WW 11, it was not very common for presidents to do a lot of travelling.
  • In 1943 a plane was remodelled for the explicit use of a president – a craft was remodified to carry President Franklin D Roosevelt on international and cross-country trips.
  • A further craft was modified by the Secret Service for the president to use.
  • The Sacred Cow was fitted with a telephone, an elevator for the president’s wheelchair, plus sleeping area.
  • After WW11 it became common practice for governments from all over the world to ensure that their heads of state were assigned their own aerial craft. 

Everyone knows what Air Force One stands for:

  • Air Force One is the official air traffic craft carrying the President of the United States of America.
  • Air Force One is the common term used for aircraft that have been specifically built and used for the President – predictably, it is perhaps one of the most conspicuous symbols of the power and might of the American presidency.
  • In 1943 the idea of assigning a specific military craft for the transportation of the President came into being and an A C-87 Liberator Express was reconfigured for the president’s specific use – although this option was turned down by the Secret Service due to safety issues.
  • An A C-54 Skymaster was instead reconstructed for the president – which was nicknamed the Sacred Cow.
  • The Sacred Cow was also used by President Truman when he became president after Roosevelt.
  • Air Force One was created in 1953 during an airspace safety incident.
  • Needless to say numerous aircraft have been used since the early days as Air Force One, and the next Air Force One plane is said to be a Boeing 747-8.

SAM 28000, one of the two VC-25s used as Air Force One, flying over Mount Rushmore in February 2001.









Although most governments own private jets for the transportation for their presidents for a variety of reasons – many governments are going the airplane charters route to bypass the excessive outlay of these expensive craft.