It’s arguably the most iconic livery on the most iconic aircraft in service. It’s blue-and-white livery is instantly identifiable to both AvGeeks and those who view planes as simply flying buses.
Officially designated the VC-25 by the U.S. Air Force, two heavily-modified Boeing 747-200s have been in service since 1990.
By now, most AvGeeks know that any aircraft can be designated as Air Force One – the callsign is only active if the president is on board. Thus the modified 757s (officially C-32As) can also carry the callsign when the president is aboard.
The Seattle area sees C-32As fairly regularly, as high-ranking officials other than the president often visit the region, such as the vice president. The VC-25 hasn’t been in these parts since 2018, and we last wrote about a visit here in 2015, so we were due for an update.
The arrival and departure are usually set up as media opportunities for local press outlets, and that’s how we were able to cover the events. Press releases are distributed and screening applications made available. Once approved by the White House Press Office, credentials are issued, and you then turn up at the appointed location several hours in advance for physical screening by the Secret Service.
After a thorough inspection of persons and equipment, we were escorted to the press area on the airfield, which typically is something like a parked 40-foot flatbed trailer, accessed via a set of wooden stairs, that’s fenced off and closely watched by more Secret Service folks.
On this visit, the president departed via motorcade, riding in one of a pair of limos nicknamed “The Beast.” Both are the same, right down to the matching license plates.
The next morning, the president was slated to arrive at SEA via Marine One, an MV-22 Osprey that’s been modified for VIP transport. This was, for me, the most exciting part as I’ve only seen the president depart and arrive via motorcade – this would be super fun.
Alas, it didn’t go to plan. A security incident (basically, someone at the nearby food-service business that serves the airlines left a rice cooker on the back seat of their car in the parking lot) caused a huge disruption to both the president’s departure and to SEA air traffic in general. The president left about an hour late. The SEA traffic issues took several hours to clear.
The result for the departure was that Air Force One was hastily moved away from the ramp to a point on the runway midfield, along with all of the assorted escort vehicles following behind. The Ospreys and accompanying Blackhawks landed on a taxiway adjacent to the 747, and everyone boarded there. The jet departed straight from that location, having parked on the runway.
Other than plenty of inconvenience for SEA travelers, some briefly stressed-out security folks and some disappointed journalists, the president safely departed, albeit from the middle of the airfield, pretty much out of sight of everyone save for the people looking after him and traveling with him.
It’s never a dull day when a sitting president pays a visit. Here’s hoping for another visit relatively soon, this time without any weirdness.