The Boeing 747 and the Airbus A330 are two of the most popular choices for presidential jets. Here’s how the world’s leaders travel.
- The Boeing VC25 is arguably the most famous jetliner in the world.
- Most people know the plane by the callsign it’s assigned when the President of the United States is on board, Air Force One.
- A larger number of prominent international leaders have some form of executive transport with the Boeing 747 jumbo jet and the Airbus A330/A340 popular options.
The Boeing VC25 is arguably the most famous jetliner in the world, even though most people have never heard of it.
Most people do know it, though, by the callsign it’s assigned when the President of the United States is on board: Air Force One.
Air Force One is instantly recognizable — both as the President’s airplane and as a flying symbol of American military and economic might. With its hand-polished blue, white, and silver livery, Air Force One boldly proclaims the arrival of the most powerful man in the world.
What many people don’t know is that there isn’t one, but two nearly identical Boeing jets that serve as the official transport of the president. Normally, the planes are referred to by their tail numbers — 28000 and 29000 — but when the Commander and Chief steps on board, they take on the call sign “Air Force One.” In fact, presidential airplanes didn’t begin using the Air Force One designation until 1959.
The two VC25 jets are actually based on the civilian Boeing 747-200, but with modifications to make it suitible for presidental transport.
The president’s pair of Boeing 747-200 series-based jets are operated by the Presidential Airlift Group out of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
The US President is not the only one to have his or her own “presidential jet.” In fact, a larger number of prominent international leaders have some form of executive transport. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet is a popular option for many nations including China, India, and South Korea, and, until recently, Japan. While the Airbus A330 and A340 are also commonly found in presidential fleets.
Here’s a closer look at how the presidents, chancellors, and prime ministers of the world travel.
This story was originally published by Benjamin Zhang in April 2019. It was updated on September 6, 2019.
1. The United States of America: The US president’s Boeing VC25 is a heavily modified version of the Boeing 747-200 airliner.
It entered service in 1990 and is expected to be replaced by new planes — with a new livery — based on the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental in 2024.
On some occasions, the US President has been known to use the Boeing 757-200-based C-32 aircraft as well.
2. The Russian Federation: The President of Russia’s fleet of domestically produced aircraft is headlined by five heavily modified Ilyushin IL-96-300PU airliners.
The Russian President has also been known to fly on a fleet of smaller executive aircraft based on Tupolev TU-214 airliners.
2. The Federal Republic of Germany: The German Chancellor’s fleet includes a pair of modified Airbus A340-300 airliners that once flew for Lufthansa.
The German fleet also features several Airbus A320-family-based executive jets.
3. The People’s Republic of China: The Chinese do not have a dedicated presidential jet. Instead, it uses Boeing 747-400 airliners pulled for the Air China fleet.
However, with the 747-400 becoming increasingly dated, Beijing is reportedly working on a converting one of Air China’s 747-8 Intercontinental airliners into a full-time presidential jet.
5. Japan: Since 1993, the Japanese Prime Minister’s plane of choice has been a pair of modified Boeing 747-400s. However, the duo will be replaced this year by a pair of brand new Boeing 777-300ERs.
One of the two jets that served as the Japanese Air Force One was recently listed for sale on an aviation classifieds site. It’ll set you back a cool $28 million.
5. The French Republic: the President of France’s primary jet is an ex-Swissair Airbus A330-200 that has been converted into a VIP transport.
France’s presidential fleet also includes several Airbus A310-300s and Airbus A340-200s.
6. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: The UK Prime Minister’s official transport is a Royal Air Force Airbus A330MRTT that has been outfitted with 58 business class seats.
The plane was converted for VIP duties in 2015 but can still serve as a refueling tanker when not on state business.
Until 2015, the UK Prime Minister chartered commercial jets for state visits.
7. The Republic of Korea: The South Korean president conducts official state visits using a converted Boeing 747-400 leased from Korean Air.
8. The Federative Republic of Brazil: The Brazilian President’s main long-haul transport is an Airbus A319-based corporate jet. Brazil’s presidential fleet also features several domestically produced Embraer VIP transports.
9. Canada: The Canadian PM flies onboard a fleet of modified Airbus A310-300s dubbed the CC-150 Polaris.
10. The Republic of Poland: The Polish presidential fleet features a variety of new VIP transports including Embraer E-Jets, Gulfstream G550s, and Boeing 737 BBJs.
11. The Republic of India: The Indian PM traditionally flies aboard Air India Boeing 747-400s operated by the Indian Air Force. However, the aging jumbo jet is reportedly set to be replaced by a new customized Boeing 777-300ER.
12. The Republic of Turkey: The Turkish presidential fleet is one of the more impressive in the world. It includes a variety of wide-body commercial airliners that have been converted into VIP transports including Airbus A330-200s, …
… Airbus A340-500s, and…
… a Boeing 747-8I private jet reportedly gifted to Turkey by the Qatari government.
13. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: North Korea’s official VIP transports are Soviet-era Ilyushin IL-62M. However, North Korean leadership has more recently used trains and aircraft provided by China.
14. The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire: Ivorian presidential fleet includes an Airbus A319 corporate jet.
15. The Islamic Republic of Iran: The Iranian President’s latest VIP transport is an Airbus A340-300 that once flew with Air Canada and Turkish Airlines.
16. Commonwealth of Australia: The Australian PM’s fleet includes several Boeing 737 BBJs. However, a Royal Australian Air Force Airbus A330MRTT is reportedly being converted into a long-range VIP transport.